Senseless: FAA says incidents of lasers being pointed at aircraft doubled in 2010

FAA points to cheaper, green lasers as major problems

Perhaps it is the advent of cheaper lasers that anyone can afford or maybe just an increase in morons, but the FAA today said that in 2010, nationwide reports of laser beams being pointed at airplanes almost doubled from 2009 to more than 2,800, making it the highest number of laser events since the FAA began keeping track in 2005.

Los Angeles International Airport recorded the highest number of laser events in the country for an individual airport in 2010, with 102 reports, and the greater Los Angeles area tallied nearly twice that number, with 201 reports. Chicago O'Hare International Airport was a close second, with 98 reports, and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport tied for the third highest number of laser events for the year with 80 each, the FAA stated. Laser reports rose from nearly 300 in 2005 to 1,527 in 2009 and 2,836 in 2010.

The weirdest, wackiest and stupidest sci/tech stories of 2010

According to the FAA, the increase in reports is likely due to a number of factors, including the availability of inexpensive laser devices on the Internet; higher power levels that let lasers 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 in a statement.

A story here points up the dangers of shining a laser at aircraft.

In action that needs to happen way more often, a Massachusetts man was this month convicted of pointing a laser at a police aircraft, prosecutors said.  According to this story, Gerard Sasso, was only the second person in the nation to be convicted for shining a powerful green laser beam into an aircraft.  He was found guilty of willfully interfering with an aircraft operator with reckless disregard for human life and making false statements. Sasso was sentenced to 36 months, or 3 years, in prison.

The other conviction was of a California man, Dana Welch, in 2009.   At that time the FBI stated that while several people across the United States have pleaded guilty to federal charges of pointing lasers at aircraft, Welch was the first person in the nation to be convicted at trial of interfering with aircraft pilots by shooting lasers at their planes.

According to the FAA the Top 20 laser pointings by airport:

  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)-102
  • Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD)-98
  • Phoenix/Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)-80
  • San Jose International Airport (SJC)-80
  • McCarran International Airport (LAS)-72
  • Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) -66
  • Oakland International Airport (OAK)-55
  • Honolulu International Airport (HNL)-47
  • San Francisco International Airport (SFO)-39
  • Denver International Airport (DEN)-38
  • Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)-38
  • Tucson International Airport (TUS)-37
  • Miami International Airport (MIA)-36
  • Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC)-36
  • Portland International Airport (PDX)-32
  • LA/Ontario International Airport (ONT)-32
  • Bob Hope Airport (BUR)-31
  • Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI)-31
  • John Wayne Airport (SNA)-31
  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)-26

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