Laser Illumination of Aircraft: A Growing Threat

The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), in conjunction with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and other federal, state, and local law enforcement organizations, works to educate the public on the dangers presented to aviation by people pointing lasers at commercial aircraft. ALPA supports and encourages law enforcement officials in the investigation and prosecution of such occurrences.

The FBI Warns about the Dangers of Lasers

Interfering with the operation of an aircraft has long been a federal crime, but the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 specifically made it a federal felony to knowingly point the beam of a laser at an aircraft. In 2014, ALPA partnered with the FBI, along with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), law enforcement at all levels nationally and internationally, school resource officers, and other stakeholders, in its efforts to continue to educate the public about the dangers associated with laser strikes to aircraft. Campaign outreach efforts include digital billboards, radio public service announcements, video, social media, a presence on and partner websites, and more. The campaign targeted the 12 cities with the most reported laser attacks.

But more outreach and education is needed. Each week, there are laser illuminations of aircraft around the world, presenting a continuing danger.

The potential negative effects of laser beams striking the human eye and interfering with flight operations are well documented. While there has yet to be an aviation accident attributable to a laser illumination, several significant cases of pilot injury have been reported. In view of the worldwide proliferation of handheld lasers, the threat and the risk intensify.

In addition to advocating for increased penalties for attacks, ALPA leaders developed recommended crew practices pilots can use when confronted with a laser illumination during critical phases of flight, ensuring that airline pilots are properly prepared to handle a laser event.

Download ALPA's Position Paper