Santa Says Don’t Aim Holiday Laser-Light Displays at the Sky

Friday, November 26, 2021

WASHINGTON - The holiday season is here and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) wants to make sure your laser-light displays are aimed at your house, not at the sky. Each year, we receive reports from pilots who are distracted or temporarily blinded by residential laser-light displays. 

You might not realize this, but a well-meaning attempt to spread holiday cheer has the potential to create a serious safety risk to pilots and passengers on airplanes that fly overhead. So please make sure all laser lights are directed at your house and not pointing towards the sky. The extremely concentrated beams of laser lights reach much farther than you might realize.

If we become aware that your laser-light display affects pilots, we’ll ask you to adjust them or turn them off. If your laser-light display continues to affect pilots, despite our warnings, you could face a civil penalty. 

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

Laser strikes against aircraft continue to increase each year. As of November 22, the FAA received 8,550 laser strike reports for 2021, exceeding the 2020 total of 6,852. This marks the highest number of laser strike incidents since FAA began tracking statistics in 2010.

Intentionally aiming a laser at an aircraft is a serious safety risk and violates federal law. Many high-powered lasers can completely incapacitate pilots who are trying to fly safely to their destinations and may be carrying hundreds of passengers.

To identify laser strike trends, the FAA developed a visualization tool, using the Tableau software platform that shows laser strike data from 2010 to 2020 and highlights trends by geographic area, per capita data, time of day and year. The FAA shares the information to draw attention to the dangerously high rate of laser strikes on airplanes. Laser report data by year can be downloaded on the FAA’s website.

The FAA remains vigilant to raise awareness about the dangers of pointing lasers at aircraft and encourages the public to report laser strikes to the FAA and local law enforcement agencies.

Please watch our video about the dangers of lasers, learn more and get the facts about laser strikes hazards.