America

Lasers Light Up Aircraft Over 2,800 Times In 2010

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) was the site of the largest number of reported laser incidents in 2010. i i

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) was the site of the largest number of reported laser incidents in 2010. David McNew/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption David McNew/Getty Images
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) was the site of the largest number of reported laser incidents in 2010.

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) was the site of the largest number of reported laser incidents in 2010.

David McNew/Getty Images

Pilots are facing increasing numbers of incidents where lasers have been pointed at their aircraft.

A report released by the FAA says that there were 2,836 reported cases in 2010, almost double the 2009 number and the most since the report was first published in 2005. The FAA speculates on reasons for the increase:

The increase in reports is likely due to a number of factors, including the availability of inexpensive laser devices on the Internet; higher power levels that enable lasers to hit aircraft at higher altitudes; increased pilot reporting of laser strikes; and the introduction of green lasers, which are more easily seen than red lasers.

Los Angeles International Airport recorded the most laser events in 2010. The FAA says that lasers have the potential to both distract and injure pilots. The FAA's top 20 airports for laser events in 2010:

  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) = 102
  • Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD) = 98
  • Phoenix/Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) = 90
  • San Jose International Airport (SJC) = 80
  • McCarran International Airport (LAS) = 72
  • Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) = 66
  • Oakland International Airport (OAK) = 55
  • Honolulu International Airport (HNL) = 47
  • San Francisco International Airport (SFO) = 39
  • Denver International Airport (DEN) = 38
  • Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) = 38
  • Tucson International Airport (TUS) = 37
  • Miami International Airport (MIA) = 36
  • Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) = 36
  • Portland International Airport (PDX) = 32
  • LA/Ontario International Airport (ONT) = 32
  • Bob Hope Airport (BUR) = 31
  • Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) = 31
  • John Wayne Airport (SNA) = 31
  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) = 26

While hand-held laser devices may be behind the increase in incidents, laser strikes on aircraft can also come from legitimate sources such as festivals, concerts and scientific research. The FAA has a handy page on its website explaining how to alert authorities if you are planning on using lasers that may interfere with aircraft.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.