February 4, 2011

The U.S. Senate last week approved an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill that would make aiming laser pointers at aircraft a federal crime. The measure passed by a vote of 96-1 on February 3, as the Senate continues to debating approval of long-awaited reauthorization legislation.

The amendment comes on the heels of an FAA report that cited incidents of pointer-type lasers aimed at aircraft almost doubled in 2010 from the previous year to more than 2,800, with business-type aircraft accounting for an estimated 25 percent of the incidents involved.

The January 19 report didn’t identify targeted flights by mission, but an NBAA- requested analysis showed that about 700 of the 2,836 reports came from pilots of twin- engine piston, turboprop, helicopter or turbine fixed wing aircraft, the most common aircraft types used in business flying.

Even low-power pointer-type lasers can cause glare, flash-blindness or afterimages and cause “some degree of operational difficulty” in landing, a 2004 FAA report concluded. Business aircraft with slower approach speeds than airliners are more susceptible to targeted laser blasts.

More information on the FAA laser pointer report and reaction from aviation experts is available.

NBAA and the general aviation community welcomed the amendment. Read NBAA’s previous coverage about aircraft laser-pointing, including tips for avoiding a laser-point incident.