FAA pushing prevention after reports of lasers pointed at planes

Reporter: Gail Levy Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:

In 2021, there were more than 20 reports of lasers being pointed at planes flying into and out of Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW). The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is focused on preventing this from happening even more.

The FAA is pushing awareness. The agency wants you to know that not only is flashing lasers at planes illegal, but it’s also very dangerous.

WINK News reporter Gail Levy spoke with a pilot who had to cope with landing a plane as a bright light shone into his eyes without warning of course.

For 40 years, Captain Lee Collins has kept his eyes in the sky. And, for the last 35 of those years, he’s been flying for an airline.

For him, a laser pointed in the cockpit is something he hopes never to experience again. “I had one incident, I guess it was probably six or seven years ago, while on the landing, and approach to landing,” said Collins.

Despite the glare, Collins was able to land his plane safely. “Neither my first officer nor myself was impaired in any way, but our cockpit was illuminated for probably about 10 seconds,” Collins said.

Collins was unscathed, but not all are that lucky. “Unfortunately, others have been more severely impacted and did some cases even permanent vision loss, which would end a pilot’s career,” said Collins.

While the side effects sound frightening, the FAA says the rate at which these incidents are taking off is even scarier. Reports of laser incidents reached new heights in 2021, as they were up 41%. This figure includes reports from RSW.

Michael O’Harra is the regional administrator for the FAA. “the events reported for Fort Myers, which was 26, in 2021. And even within that number, it’s interesting to look 11 of those were reported at low altitude at or below 3000 feet,” said O’Harra.

That is a critical elevation for pilots when taking off or landing.

“It’s just very sad that some people have not gotten the message that this is not a smart thing to do,” Collins said.

According to the FAA, the good news is that these lasers haven’t caused a plane crash yet. The most recent laser-shining incident at RSW was in December.

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