Don't Play With Lasers: Why Pointing Them at Planes is Dangerous

Last updated on Mar 21, 2024

Posted on Mar 21, 2024

Lasers are undeniably cool. They zip through the air, project dazzling patterns, and seem like a harmless source of amusement. But there's one situation where a seemingly innocent laser pointer can morph into a serious threat: aimed at an airplane. Here's why pointing a laser at a plane is a terrible idea, for both safety and legal reasons.

A Pilot's Worst Nightmare

Imagine this: you're a pilot, laser-focused (pun intended) on guiding hundreds of passengers to a safe landing. Suddenly, a blinding green dot appears smack in the middle of your windshield. That's the effect a laser pointer can have on a pilot's vision. While glare and temporary flashblindness are certainly dangers, the effects of a laser strike go beyond simply not being able to see for a few seconds.

Lasers can disrupt a pilot's night vision, critical for navigating in low-light conditions. They can also scatter inside the cockpit, creating a disorienting light show that makes it difficult to interpret crucial instrument readings. This can be especially dangerous during critical phases of flight like takeoff and landing, where split-second decisions are essential for safety.

A Chain Reaction of Risks

A pilot who's disoriented by a laser strike is a clear danger to everyone on board. But the risks go far beyond temporary blindness. Pilots might mistake a laser for a weapon being aimed at the plane, leading to panic and potentially dangerous maneuvers to evade a perceived threat. Imagine a pilot having to jerk the controls to avoid a laser they think is a missile – a terrifying scenario that could put the entire aircraft at risk.

Lasers can also damage sensitive aircraft instruments. An aircraft altimeter, which measures altitude, is a vital piece of equipment. If a laser strike were to damage this instrument, it could provide the pilot with inaccurate readings, potentially leading to a dangerous situation. Even a temporary malfunction caused by a laser strike could necessitate an emergency landing, disrupting travel plans and causing unnecessary stress for passengers and crew.

Pointing a laser at an airplane isn't just a bad idea, it's a federal crime with severe consequences. The FAA considers laser strikes a serious threat to aviation safety, and getting caught can result in hefty fines – up to $11,000 per violation, according to the FAA. In some cases, jail time is also a possibility. So not only are you putting lives at risk with your actions, but you're also facing serious legal repercussions.

Educate Yourself and Spread Awareness

Lasers are fantastic for fun at home, but there's a time and place. Keep them away from airplanes! Instead, channel your inner scientist with astronomy projects using a laser pointer to learn about constellations. You can even create interactive games for your pet with safe laser beams. There's a whole world of safe laser fun waiting to be explored, without jeopardizing the safety of pilots, passengers, and yourself.

If you know someone who owns a laser pointer, explain the dangers of pointing it at airplanes. Many people may not be aware of the seriousness of the issue. By raising awareness, we can all work together to keep the skies safe for everyone. Organizations like the FAA also offer educational resources to help spread the word about the dangers of laser strikes. So next time you see a laser pointer, think twice before pointing it at the sky. You could be unknowingly putting hundreds of lives at risk.

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