FAA will begin imposing civil penalties against people who point a laser into the cockpit of an aircraft, Randy Babbitt, FAA administrator, announced Wednesday.
At a press conference at Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA), Babbitt said pointing a laser at an aircraft from the ground could seriously impair a pilot’s vision and interfere with safety. Individuals who violate the FAA’s regulations could be subjected to a maximum civil penalty of $11,000 for interfering with a flight crew.
“We want everyone to realize this is serious, these are not toys and this is dangerous,” said Babbitt. “So what they think is an innocent prank can be deadly and to suffer a loss of vision at low altitudes could have very serious consequences to both the crew and the passengers onboard a commercial airplane.”
With more than 1,100 incidents reported nationwide this year of lasers being pointed at aircraft, laser events have steadily increased 300 in 2005 to more than 1,500 in 2009 and 2,800 in 2010.
“Our top priority is protecting the safety of the traveling pubic,” said Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. “We will not hesitate to take tough action against anyone who threatens the safety our passengers, pilots and air transportation system.”
So far this year, the Phoenix and Dallas-Fort Worth areas each have recorded more than 45 laser events. The Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Houston areas each have recorded more than 30 laser events, an increase likely due to greater awareness and outreach to pilots to encourage reporting.
“These [lasers] are not jokes...The potential for real harm exists. That’s why we’re taking such an aggressive stance. ... These are dangerous, distractive, and they can result in permanent eye damage to flight crew members,” said Babbitt.