In the last two years, there has been a 58 percent increase in harmful laser strike events on pilots in the United States, reaching a new high of 9,723 laser strikes in 2021.
New generation lasers have the potential to render an airline captain utterly incapacitated while flying a jet with hundreds of passengers on board.
According to FAA data, California was the worst-hit state, with 12,758 laser strikes reported — nearly double the number of laser strikes recorded in Texas, which was the second-worst affected state.
Perhaps predictably, the vast majority of laser strikes occur on Fridays and Saturdays, with a spike in complaints in October and November, according to the FAA. Last year, 47 pilots were injured in laser hits, which is concerning.
Laser attacks, according to FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, pose a “severe threat to the safety of the pilot, passengers, and everyone in the area of the aircraft.”
Since the FAA began maintaining records in 2010, the number of laser strike events in the United States has climbed by 250 percent.
During a landing at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport in Florida in January 2020, a pilot was temporarily blinded by a laser.
A laser was also pointed into the cockpit of the Airbus A319, according to a United Airlines pilot.
A police aircraft was dispatched to track down the perpetrator, and a guy was apprehended after pointing the laser at the copter.
A Virgin Atlantic flight from London Heathrow to Tel Aviv was forced to return last year after the Captain was injured shortly after takeoff by a laser strike.
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner flew on to Israel at first, but the pilot could only see out of one eye, and his vision was deteriorating.
Fortunately, the plane landed safely and without incident.
The FAA in the United States has the authority to punish violators $11,000 per violation or $30,800 for numerous violations. The FAA issued $120,000 in fines for laser hits in 2021 alone.