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Laser Strikes Increase Again in 2021

High-Powered Laser Proliferation, Tech, Increases Contacts

The FAA has noted the increase in laser strikes for aircraft in 2021, as the industry sees the highest number of incidents since 2016. The FAA has received 7,186 reports of laser contacts, already exceeding the 2020 total of 6,852. 

The FAA warning reminds operators that sufficiently powerful lasers can “completely incapacitate” and temporarily blind pilots, a dangerous enough proposition for common general aviation targets surrounded by suburbs- but far more perilous when occurring to an airliner carrying hundreds of passengers. Those found shining their lasers at aircraft face FAA fines of $11,000 per violation with a cap of $30,800 for multiples. The FAA has only issued $120,000 in fines in 2021, an unsurprising metric given the steep difficulty of identifying perpetrators on the ground. Some states and local municipalities have boosted penalties for the act, given the danger it places upon the surrounding areas. 

The FAA, in its continuing efforts to cease laser strikes, has developed a visualization in conjunction with Tableau to analyze and demonstrate laser data from 2010 to 2020, with breakdowns by geographic area, per capita data, date, etc. The FAA reminds pilots to report laser strikes to both the FAA and the local law enforcement, as each report can serve to identify the origin quicker and more accurately.

Interesting takeaways from the Tableau are the most frequent incidents per capita, with Hawaii leading the way with 63.71 laser events per 100,000 people, followed by Washington D.C., Nevada, and Puerto Rico with 56.11, 45.32, 42.30, respectively. Reported laser incidents tend to occur at lower altitudes, with 24% being reported at or below 3,000 feet AGL. 



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