Federal Aviation Administration reports 40% spike in laser strikes on aircraft

Saturday, October 1, 2022
Federal Aviation Administration reports 40% spike in laser strikes on aircraft
"Lasers can distract the pilot and they can even temporarily blind the pilot," a spokesperson for the Federal Aviation Administration said.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The Federal Aviation Administration said laser pointing at aircraft has jumped more than 40% from 2020 to 2021.

Recent arrests right here in Houston are proof of that statistic.

Police arrested two men this week and a third last week for using high-powered lasers against planes and helicopters.

ABC13 filed a report with the FAA after an incident targeting our SkyEye13 helicopter during Wednesday's morning traffic coverage.

"It's scary when you can think of what a small laser pointer can do," Tammy Rose, SkyEye reporter, said.

She was in the passenger seat reporting on early morning rush hour traffic as she saw a green laser strike the helicopter high in the air.

READ MORE: Dangerous laser pointer aimed at ABC13's SkyEye while flying above traffic in southeast Houston

ABC13 is the only Houston television station with dedicated helicopter reporters. But this week, their safety was put at risk.

"For a pilot, if he's temporarily blinded and gets disoriented he could easily lose control of the aircraft and possibly crash," Rose, who suffered blurred vision after the laser hit the back window of the chopper, said.

She said the pilot was able to turn the helicopter so the laser wasn't able to hit the cockpit windows, but said the laser attack continued.

"He was doing it for ten minutes. He obviously was targeting our aircraft," Rose said.

The incident comes just after two others were arrested in Houston this week.

Jesus Pena and Jorge Olsen were arrested for pointing a laser into a Houston police chopper.

HPD ground units were called out and spotted the two men passing the laser back and forth while standing outside.

SEE ALSO: Man arrested for shining laser at airplanes has felony warrants

"It's unusual for someone with warrants to bring attention to himself by doing this," said Lt. Crowson. The man was taken into custody.

Just last week, one of the men, Jordan Jackson, was arrested and charged for pointing a laser at two planes and a helicopter in November 2021.

"The police claim that you gave them a statement that says you shone the laser up at the police helicopter, I presume you knew it was a police helicopter, because it was hovering around in the area and you were annoyed that it was in the area," the magistrate judge said in court.

The FAA said in 2021, more than 9,700 laser strikes were reported.

That's up 41% from 2020.

In 2022, they said they've already received more than 5,000 reports as of July 31.

"Lasers can distract the pilot and they can even temporarily blind the pilot," Ian Gregor, a spokesperson for the FAA, said.

The three men arrested in Houston are each charged with illuminating an aircraft with a laser, which is a misdemeanor, but they could face up to one year in prison and a $4,000 fine.

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