US Airport Laser Beam Incidents Spike

Beam: The Race to Make the Laser
New data has been published that shows the alarming level of laser incidents at US airports.

More than 100 instances where lasers in private hands were directed at commercial passenger aircraft occurred at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) alone in 2010, while Chicago O’Hare International Airport experienced almost the same number.

In total, 2,836 airport laser incidents were recorded – a close-on 50 per cent increase compared to 2009. That’s according to the FAA – the US Federal Aviation Administration – which released details on the situation on 19 January 2011.

The FAA highlighted how, in a lot of cases, the laser beams were hitting moving aircraft. The takeoff and landing phases of flight demand more pilot concentration than any other, and sudden, blinding light beams have the potential to seriously distract.

Lasers shining into cockpits can cause temporary blindness and, said the FAA, there were instances of this occurring in 2010. Where it did, the affected pilots typically had to hand control over to another pilot.

Airport Laser Incidents

Five years ago, 300 airport laser incidents were reported. Since then, lasers have become much easier to obtain, and at the same time as online laser sales started to spike, the FAA started to keep a record of their use around airport sites.

Randy Babbitt, Administrator at the FAA, has now called on commercial airline pilots that see laser beams being shone to advise ATC immediately. This is the first part of a chain of reporting events, and gives Air Traffic Control the information it needs to then advise Police officials, he explained.

US Airport Laser Beams

Of the 2,836 US airport laser beam episodes in 2010, LAX experienced 108 of them. Chicago O’Hare had 98 and San Jose and Phoenix Sky Harbor airports, 80 each. Meanwhile, Las Vegas, Philadelphia and Oakland all had over 50, and Honolulu, San Francisco, Newark, Denver, Tucson and Miami all had over 30.

Airport lasers are by no means confined to the US. Here in the UK, they’re a problem too.

Just over a year ago, Airport International reported on British airport laser beam incidents in an article that coincided with the introduction of new penalties imposed on those responsible.