WASHINGTON — Laser strikes aimed at aircraft including airline planes surged 41% last year to a record high, according to federal officials.
The Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday that it received 13,304 reports from pilots about laser strikes last year, erasing a record set in 2021.
“Aiming a laser at an aircraft is a serious safety hazard that puts everyone on the plane and on the ground at risk,” FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said in a video posted by the agency.
The FAA said pilots have reported 313 injuries since the agency started keeping records in 2010.
Each of the last five months of 2023 surpassed the previous high month, November 2021. The full-year rise over 2022 numbers easily topped the 28% increase in reported incidents from 2016 to 2022.
Authorities blame the surge in attacks on factors including the widespread sale of inexpensive lasers in stores and online, stronger devices that can hit planes at higher altitudes, and the increased 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 strikes at aircraft are most common during in the first few hours after midnight, according to FAA data.