Laser strikes against aircraft have reached a record number

10 October 2019, North Rhine-Westphalia, Oberhausen: A torch with laser pointer is used in Oberhausen. Photo: Fabian Strauch/dpa (Photo by Fabian Strauch/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Pilots reported a record 9,723 incidents of lasers targeting their aircraft last year, a 41% jump from the previous year.

The Federal Aviation Administration released the numbers Friday, just a week after four airline flights were hit by a laser near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. All four planes landed safely.

The FAA said it issued $120,000 in fines for laser strikes in 2021. Fines can be up to $11,000 for one incident and up to $30,800 for multiple violations, and violators may face federal criminal charges.

Lasers aimed at airplanes and helicopters have been a safety concern for more than a decade despite prison sentences for those caught. The authorities have tried to reward the culprits and to legislate to facilitate their prosecution.

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The FAA said pilots have reported 244 injuries from laser strikes since the agency began keeping numbers in 2010.

The number of laser incidents exceeded 1,000 in 2009 and has been rising for most years since. Authorities say the problem is compounded by the availability of cheap laser pointers and increasingly powerful devices.

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