“It can do damage. It can kill people.”—Dangerous lasers targeting airplanes on the rise in Alabama

Blue And Red Airplane On Sky
This dangerous trend can put lives at risk. (Unsplash)

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently reported a rising number of lasers being pointed at aircrafts in flight, a dangerous trend that could result in pilots temporarily losing their eyesight. For some, it may seem like a harmless prank, but the act puts hundreds of lives at risk. Keep reading for more details.

Thousands of incidents nationwide

According to a report from ABC7, the harmful trend of people flashing lasers at airplanes has been increasing in numbers over the years.

In 2020, there were 6,852 reported laser incidents nationwide. Last year, that number shot up to 9,723.

To compare, in the state of Alabama there were 98 incidents in 2020 and 68 in 2021.

Since February 28th alone, there have been nine reported cases of laser flashing this year. Most recently, a pilot reported being illuminated 12 miles north of Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport on March 20th, 2022.

Bo Andrews, CEO of Southern Sky Aviation, told ABC7 that just last week he had to change routes on his way into Birmingham because of the incident.

“I was in route to Birmingham, it was 9 or 10 at night, and when I checked in with Birmingham approach control they said ‘We want you to turn south because ahead and to your right 10 miles is a report of laser activity’. It can do damage. It can kill people”

Bo Andrews, CEO, Southern Sky Aviation, to ABC7

Putting lives in danger

Not only are the pilots’ lives being put at risk with this trend, but the passengers of the planes involved as well.

Typically when these cases occur, the plane is low enough to the ground that the pilot is manually controlling the plane. When lasers are pointed at the plane at that stage, the pilot can go temporarily blind.

Imagine a pilot trying to land with low or impaired vision…things can go bad quickly.

Rick Mahoney, a longtime pilot, told ABC7 that he has experienced the phenomenon 4-5 times throughout his career.

“If you are doing it, stop. You are putting hundreds of people’s lives at risk by doing something very careless and reckless that is endangering people’s lives.”

Rick Mahoney, longtime pilot, to ABC7

If that’s not enough to deter potential offenders, a person convicted of pointing a laser at an aircraft can be fined up to $250,000 and sentenced up to five years in prison.

Reporting incidents

If you happen to witness someone aiming a laser at an aircraft, report the incident to the FAA.

Send an email to laserreports@faa.gov and include the following information:

  • Your name and contact information
  • Date and time you witnessed the laser incident
  • Location and description of the incident

You could help prevent further incidents and save lives.

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Gabby Gervais
Gabby Gervais
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