Washington — Laser attacks targeting aircraft, including airline planes, increased 41% last year to a record level, according to federal officials.
The Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday that it received 13,304 pilot reports of laser attacks last year, erasing a record set in 2021.
“Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a serious safety hazard that puts everyone on the plane and on the ground at risk,” said FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker. said in a video published by the agency.
The FAA said pilots have reported 313 injuries since the agency began keeping records in 2010.
Each of the last five months of 2023 surpassed the previous high month, November 2021. The full-year increase over 2022 numbers easily surpassed the 28% increase in reported incidents from 2016 to 2022.
Authorities blame the rise in attacks on factors including the widespread sale of inexpensive lasers in stores and online, more powerful devices that can hit planes at higher altitudes and greater awareness among pilots to report incidents.
The FAA said it can fine violators $11,000 for each violation, up to $30,800, and federal, state and local law enforcement agencies can file criminal charges.
Laser attacks on aircraft are most common during the first hours after midnight, according to FAA data.