In a press release by the FBI on Tuesday, September 17, 2013, the FBI, San Juan Division, repeated its concerns for persons using lasers pointed at aircraft.  And this isn’t the first time steps have been taken by federal agencies to proactively and reactively address these concerns.

Shining a laser at an aircraft is a senseless act which places the lives of aircrews and passengers who travel … at risk,” said Carlos Cases, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI San Juan Field Office. “Our office is committed to investigating these reports and working with federal law enforcement partners to identify and bring offenders to justice.”

See this FBI produced video Making a Point About Lasers: has a great review of how and why lasers are a hazard to aircraft HERE.

Shining a laser at an aircraft or its flight path is a felony offense under federal law (18 USC 39A) and is taken seriously by federal prosecutors. Additionally, the FAA enforces stiff civil penalties of $11,000 per violation against persons who point lasers at aircraft.

are laser pointers illegal

After-image, flash blindness, and temporary loss of night vision are serious safety threats caused by pointing lasers at aircraft

Lasers are inexpensive. Lasers are sold everywhere. And once some people buy these inexpensive, easily accessible devices, they want to test the laser’s range, or watch them “shoot” up into the sky and… oh, there’s a plane or helicopter. No! Stop!

  • 2012 – 3,482 laser incidents were reported to the FAA nationwide.
  • 2013 – Over 2,700 strikes have been reported nationwide thus far at the time of this blog posting.
are laser pointers illegal

History of Reported Laser Incidents in U.S. (credit: FAA)

Even cheap lasers’ ranges may extend more than two miles. Pilots affected by laser strikes regularly report temporary effects including after-image, flash blindness, and temporary loss of night vision. If a flight crew member is lased, his or her ability to safely fly the aircraft is seriously compromised, endangering passengers and the public.

Here is just a sampling of recent media reports of laser-to-aircraft incidents:

  • On September 11, 2013, a Phoenix man was arrested on two counts of endangerment for illuminating a Phoenix Police helicopter. The aircraft was patrolling when it was hit by a green laser beam. He apologized and said he did not know it was illegal to point a laser at the helicopter.
  • On September 7 2013, three men were arrested after using a laser on a police helicopter in Edmonton, Alberta.
  • On September 4, 2013, a Lexington, Kentucky man pleaded guilty to second-degree wanton endangerment for aiming a green laser attached to his 9mm pistol at a police helicopter while working as a security guard. He had told police he did this because he was bored and pointed the laser on his gun at the helicopter to test its range.

Here’s a great video of how an arrest can be made quickly:

Education! Friends don’t let friends point lasers at aircraft. Seriously, keep them in the boardrooms and classrooms!

If you witness an individual aiming a laser at an aircraft, contract your local law enforcement and send an e-mail to the FAA: Additional information about the FAA’s laser initiative is available HERE.


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