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LAX reported highest number of incidents involving laser beams pointed at aircraft, FAA says

Last year, Los Angeles International Airport recorded the highest number of incidents in the country involving laser beams that were pointed at aircraft, a potentially dangerous activity that can distract or temporarily blind pilots, the Federal Aviation Administration announced Wednesday.

The nation’s third busiest airport had 102 reported incidents while the greater Los Angeles area tallied 201, including 32 at Los Angeles/Ontario International Airport, 32 from John Wayne Airport in Orange County, and 31 at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, according to the FAA. Long Beach Airport; the military reserve airfield at Los Alamitos; and general aviation airports, such as Van Nuys, and Santa Monica, accounted for the rest.

“This is a serious safety issue,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. “Lasers can distract and harm pilots who are working to get passengers safely to their destinations.”

Nationally, the number of laser events almost doubled in 2010 from the previous year to more than 2,800 -- the highest number of reports since the federal government began tracking them in 2005. Chicago O’Hare came in second behind LAX with 98 reports. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport tied for third with 80 laser events each.

FAA officials say the laser events have steadily increased since the agency created a formal reporting system in 2005 to collect information from pilots. Reports rose from almost 300 in 2005 to 1,527 in 2009 and 2,836 in 2010.

The increase 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.

“The FAA is actively warning people not to point high-powered lasers at aircraft because they can damage a pilot’s eyes or cause temporary blindness,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “We continue to ask pilots to immediately report laser events to air traffic controllers so we can contact local law enforcement officials.”

Some cities and states have laws making it illegal to shine lasers at aircraft. In many cases, people can face federal charges.


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-- Dan Weikel

Comments () | Archives (18)

People who do this should be considered terrorists and shot.

Why would anyone point a laser beam at an airplane except to harm the pilot and/or cause the plane to crash? Whoever does this must be getting a charge out of it akin to an arsonist. Oh, yeah, there's one of those in CA, too, been burning up the state for years. Could it be the same person....

When I was young, we thought we were bad when we spit watermelon seeds at passing cars. Apparently bringing down a plane isn't a big deal.

I can't believe how immature people are with those things.

Incomplete article and poor reporting. Any chance that LAX helicopter pilots are incurring more "laser tag" due to the blatant disrespect shown to residents below? Helicopters of all sorts (mostly news outlets) will hover for hours causing non stop noise. People can't contact them on the radio to ask them to move. Complaints to the airport result in a wasted call. There is another story here waiting to be told.

Who the F points lasers at planes?

This is probably a stupid question, but why are people pointing lasers at planes? Is it done just to harrass the pilots? Is it a prank?

seriously? what loser has nothing better to and gets his jollies pointing lasers at aircraft? he's obviously single. look out ladies!

The ice cream man in my neighborhood was selling Laser Light Pens to all the kids until I made him stop. I am nowhere near an airport but if I were I bet this would happen and it is very dangerous (and against the law).

I'd like to know how many cases have been reported where the pilot was temporarily blinded? Not once has an issue ever been reported, but everytime they pull this old story out of the closet they keep touting what a "serious safety issue" this is and how it can "distract and harm pilots". So so me the data that proves it - how many air disasters have we had in the country that were caused by a laser pointed from the ground?

Was it just a slow news day Dan?

To the person or persons doing this: Get a life.

Just look at the area East of LAX where airplanes pass EXTREMELY LOW before they touch down. For those not familiar with the area, let's just say it's the polar opposite of Beverly Hills. I'm suprised planes don't get shot at. The policia should distribute fliers, in English AND Spanish(mostly Spanish), warning residents of the charges they face for harassing aircraft. Throw in a little white lie saying they're gonna crackdown on violators as well. You might not deter all of the homeboys, but it will reduce the number.

what about the passengers? can't the lasers hurt their eyes also?

someone needs to invent a device to mount on an aircraft that can automatically detect a laser pointer, and determine its origination, notify the pilot that someone is attempting to target them (i imagine it happens much more frequently than pilots notice, they just miss the cockpit area). provide the pilot with an estimate of lat and long that he can relay to the tower/local law enforcement. or even automate the process, like how some theft tracking systems do. then give the culprit a 10 year sentence plus fine. if its a minor, fine the parents. they are putting hundreds of lives at risk. also the faa might consider a publicity campaign to try and raise public awareness about the dangers and consequences of pointing a laser at an aircraft

Where does the NRA stand when it comes 2nd Amendment rights to own laser beams? Say we get atacked by aliens with thin eyelids? If a laser beam is a lethal weapon then the NRA should get on the beam with some laser lobbyists to focus laser-like before laser-loving Americans are forced to obtain laser licenses or lose their lethal laser rights altogether.

Only in this swill hole.....

Anyone caught doing this should get an immediate 3 Strikes (death penalty). It should be classified as Domestic Terrorism.

Why is the immediate assumption that all of these incidents are the result of people specifically targeting aircraft? Lasers can travel a very long distance relatively unscathed. There might be a father in Cerritos pointing out a constellation to his daughter using a laser pointer that, unbeknownst to him, is striking the cockpit of an aircraft on approach to LAX. I'm not sure why everybody is incited to violence when they don't even understand the situation. Those are the mentally unstable persons who should be isolated from society.

But Al Ford, we don't kill terrorists.

We just keep them in concentration camps and torture them. Far more fun.


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