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Fact Sheet – Lasers

For Immediate Release

April 10, 2019
Contact: Tammy L. Jones or Paul Takemoto
Phone: (202) 267-3883

Aiming a laser at an aircraft creates a serious safety risk that violates federal law. High-powered lasers can completely incapacitate pilots flying aircraft that often carry hundreds of passengers.

The FAA and law enforcement agencies are working hard to increase public awareness of the dangers posed by lasers. As shown in the chart below, reported incidents of lasers aimed at aircraft have decreased in recent years. However, the substantial number of reported incidents clearly show that laser strikes on aircraft remain a serious threat to aviation safety.

Laser Incidents Per Year
YearNumber of Laser Incidents

The FAA works closely with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to pursue civil and criminal penalties against individuals who purposely aim a laser at an aircraft.

The agency takes enforcement action against those who violate Federal Aviation Regulations by shining lasers at aircraft, imposing civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation. Civil penalties of up to $30,800 have been imposed by the FAA against individuals for multiple laser incidents.

The substantial number of reports is due to a number of factors. This includes:

  • Greater awareness by pilots to report laser incidents, due in large part to the FAA’s extensive outreach program
  • The availability of inexpensive laser devices
  • Stronger power levels that enable lasers to hit aircraft at higher altitudes
  • Green lasers, which are more visible to the human eye than red lasers

The FAA’s guidance for agency investigators and attorneys stresses that laser violations should not be addressed through warning notices or counseling. The agency seeks moderately high civil penalties for inadvertent violations, but maximum penalties for deliberate violations. Violators who are pilots or mechanics face revocation of their FAA certificate, as well as civil penalties.

Some cities and states have laws making it illegal to shine lasers at aircraft and, in many cases, people can face federal charges. Federal, state and local prosecutors have sentenced laser violators to jail time, community service, probation and additional financial penalties for court costs and restitution.

The FAA strongly encourages people to report laser incidents, whether they are pilots, air traffic controllers, or members of the public.


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