FAA: Michigan laser pointers targeted aircraft in flight 810 times over last decade
Laser pointers, May 25, 2009 | FDA photo via Flickr Public Domain
People in Michigan pointed lasers at aircraft in flight 810 times from 2010 to 2020, breaking federal law, records show.
Michigan had the 22nd most incidents in the report of data from all 50 states, as well as and the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, St. Croix, the Northern Mariana Islands, the Virgin Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands. For bordering states, Ohio had 1,186 incidents, Indiana had 1,187 and Wisconsin had 383.
Michigan peaked in 2016 with 136 incidents. The state had the lowest number of incidents in 2010 with 32. In 2020, there were 76 incidents.
However, Michigan ranked 46th in per-capita incidents. Only Maine, Wyoming, Mississippi, Massachusetts, Vermont and Wisconsin had fewer per-capita incidents.
The offense can mean a $11,000 fine per incident, and a $30,800 civil fine if you make a habit out of risking pilots’ eyesight, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a new report.
The act also can land offenders in prison for five years under a federal law passed in 2018. The FBI offers up to $10,000 for information leading to an arrest. The FAA is encouraging people to report offenses.
Incidents grew during pandemic
The number of offenses nationwide grew in 2020 even as many people were grounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of flights that came with it, according to the report.
Between 2010 and 2020, the United States and its territories had 57,835 incidents of lasers pointed at planes. The agency used a new software program to track laser incidents.
“Many high-powered lasers have the ability to incapacitate pilots, thus threatening the safety of everyone on board and within the vicinity of the aircraft,” the FAA said.
California led nation in lasers pointed at planes
California had the most incidents with 11,198. That was the nearly double second-place Texas’ 5,802. The U.S. Virgin Islands and St. Croix tied for the lowest number with one apiece.
Hawaii ranked first in the per-capita ratings, followed by the District of Columbia.
Nationally, laser-pointing incidents involving aircraft over the past decade hit a high 7,383 in 2016, then dropped to 5,663 before rising to 6,852 in 2020, FAA reported.
In raw numbers, Saturdays saw the most lasers pointed at planes. Fridays were second.
Although it didn’t address pilots or flights, the Iowa Legislation addressed assaults using lasers in its “Back the Blue Act,” Senate File 342. The law made it a serious misdemeanor to point lasers at various public safety officials. The offense is an aggravated misdemeanor if an officer, firefighter or other official is injured, and a felony if weapons are involved.
A version of this story first ran in the Advance‘s sister outlet, the Iowa Capital Dispatch. Read the story here.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.