A sustained campaign by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has resulted in greater public awareness of the safety risk posed by lasers, reducing the total number of laser strikes on aircraft for the second consecutive year.
According to the FAA, there were 5,663 laser incidents in 2018, compared to 6,754 in 2017 and 7,398 in 2016.
The FAA said that the number of reported incidents shows that laser strikes on aircraft continue to be a serious threat to aviation safety and urged pilots, air traffic controllers, and the public to report laser incidents.
It said that aiming a laser at an aircraft constitutes a violation of federal law, as high-powered lasers can incapacitate pilots.
The FAA said that it is working with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to pursue civil and criminal penalties against those who violate the law.
As part of enforcement action against those who shine lasers at aircraft, the agency imposes civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation.
It has imposed civil penalties of up to $30,800 against individuals for multiple laser incidents.
The FAA has attributed the increase in the number of reported incidents to several factors.
These include greater awareness by pilots to report laser incidents due to the FAA’s outreach programme, the availability of cheap laser devices, stronger power levels, and green lasers that are more visible to the human eye.
In its guidelines for agency investigators and attorneys, the FAA has sought moderately high civil penalties for inadvertent laser violations, and maximum penalties for deliberate violations.
In the case of violation of law by pilots or mechanics, their FAA certificate could be revoked and civil penalties enforced.