Laser pointer incident prompts important reminder from FAA

Wasilla pilot was forced to abort landing after his plane became illuminated with green light
Wasilla pilot was forced to abort landing after his plane illuminated green
Published: Nov. 28, 2022 at 6:52 PM AKST
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WASILLA, Alaska (KTUU) - The Federal Aviation Administration is reminding residents of the legal repercussions that could come if someone is caught directing a laser pointer at an aircraft.

The reminder comes after a Wasilla pilot, Jake Morris, was forced to abort his landing at the Wasilla Airport last week when his personal plane illuminated green.

“I did a series of evasive maneuvers, and when I did that I discovered that I was being illuminated by a laser,” Morris said. “It was hitting the bottom of my aircraft around the landing gear, so with that I decided to abort the landing and climb and do a circling maneuver to see where the laser was coming from.”

Morris reported the incident after realizing what had happened and considers himself lucky that the laser was never pointed directly into his windshield while he was flying between 500 and 700 feet above ground level.

“To be blinded at that altitude could have been very detrimental to the flight safety,” Morris stated.

This isn’t the first time an individual has pointed a laser at an aircraft. Since 2010, there have been 110 documented cases of laser strikes reported by pilots in the state, which pales in comparison to national rates that have grown exponentially in recent years.

Between 2010 and 2021, a total of 67,558 were reported nationally, with over 14% of those incidents occurring last year alone.

Mike O’Hare, the FAA Regional Administrator for the Alaska region said even though it doesn’t happen in Alaska very often, it’s an extremely serious situation.

“Aiming a laser, as you know, at anybody is dangerous. Aiming a laser at an aircraft is a serious safety hazard that puts everyone on the airplane and on the ground below in danger,” O’Hare stated. “Violators can also face criminal penalties from federal, state, local law enforcement agencies.”

To shine a laser pointer at an aircraft is a violation of federal law that can result in heavy fines and jail time if convicted.

“People who shine lasers at aircraft face FAA fines up to $11,000 per violation and up to $30,800 for multiple incidents,” O’Hare said.

The 9,723 cases reported nationally in 2021 resulted in $120,000 in FAA fines.

In addition to the dangers that can occur by visually impairing a pilot operating an aircraft, laser pointers have also been proven to cause persistent damage according to the National Library of Medicine.