Release #11.12
June 1, 2011

Click here to view a Flickr slideshow
of the press conference.

FAA Action to Impose Stiff Fines Major Step in Ending Laser Attacks on Aircraft

WASHINGTON–The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), welcomed today’s announcement by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of a new legal tool that will help authorities impose stiff civil fines against individuals who attack aircraft with lasers from the ground.

“Laser attacks on aircraft are extremely dangerous, for pilots and everyone who is aboard,” said Capt. Lee Moak, ALPA’s president, after participating in the announcement news conference at Reagan Washington National Airport. “Individuals who shine a laser at an aircraft cockpit should know that they are committing a serious crime and that they will face penalties that are commensurate with it.”

New technology has made it easier for individuals to obtain more-powerful lasers at a lower cost. In January 2011, the FAA issued a report stating that a record number of laser events had occurred in 2010, a dramatic spike that was also reflected in ALPA’s records.

At a minimum, shining a laser at an aircraft can create a dangerous distraction in the cockpit. Laser attacks usually take place when the aircraft is close to the ground, and, as a result, the lights can distract pilots during takeoff and landing, which are the busiest and most critical times of flight. In more serious cases, a laser illumination can cause temporary blindness and incapacitation and even permanently damage a pilot’s eyes.

In January 2011, ALPA continued its long-time efforts to end laser attacks by issuing a regulatory, legislative, and public-awareness action plan to end the threat from laser attacks. The plan calls for:

Today’s announcement is a significant development in a two-prong approach to creating a strong legal deterrent and establishing a punishment that fits the crime. Earlier this year, Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) introduced the Securing Aircraft Cockpits Against Lasers Act of 2011 (H.R. 386), which was unanimously passed by the U.S. House. As a result of the leadership of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the Senate passed an amendment to the FAA reauthorization bill with similar language. ALPA urges the FAA reauthorization conference committee to include the language in its version of the bill.

“The safety threat from lasers warrants legislative and regulatory action, but the public also has an important role to play,” continued Capt. Moak. “If anyone sees a laser attack against an aircraft, they should realize that they are potentially witnessing a crime and report the incident to law enforcement authorities. Every laser attack is one too many.”

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union, representing nearly 53,000 pilots at 39 airlines in the United States and Canada. Visit the ALPA website at


CONTACT: ALPA Media, 703/481-4440 or