Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Federal Aviation Administration: Pilots reported more laser strikes in 2020 than in previous year, despite the pandemic; fewer planes were flying, but incidents were still climbing

Pilots, unlike cats, are not amused by shiny laser pointers.

The FAA has unfortunately reported on a significant increase in the number of pilots reporting laser strikes in 2020, even as fewer planes were flying due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Last year, there were a total of 6,852 laser incidents reported to the FAA, according to information posted on the administration's website. This number is up about 12% from 2019, when there 6,136 reported cases. What makes this increase more noteworthy, and also concerning, is that it occurred during a year which saw a 60% decrease in the total number of flights flown, Forbes notes.

Incidents involving laser strikes on aircraft usually involve a person on the ground, pointing the laser light at an operating aircraft. While the light may appear small when shined at short distances, it can apparently fill a cockpit, and distract or possibly "incapacitate" a pilot. Intentionally shining a light at an aircraft is also a violation of federal law, the FAA points out.

Violators can and have faced severe consequences for shining laser pointers at planes. Brian John Loven pleaded guilty to one such incident earlier this year, after being accused of shining a laser at the cockpit of a SkyWest flight as it approached the Great Falls International Airport in Montana in 2020. Joven narrowly escaped jail time, but will instead serve several years of probation. 

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