Laser strike incidents at Sea-Tac Airport catch attention of FAA

The Federal Aviation Administration announced they would be investigating reports from flight crews targeted by lasers going in and out of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

The FAA has confirmed that there have been at least three separate incidents of people pointing lasers in the past week. Back in February of this year, the FAA also had its eyes on the Seattle area after twelve separate flight crews reported they were disoriented by a green laser.

FAA spokesperson Ian Gregor says violators face criminal prosecution and steep fines.

“We have in the past seen situations where there has been a cluster of laser strikes in a short period of time,” said Gregor. “They can stop as suddenly as they start.”

The FAA released the following statement.

The FAA is committed to maintaining the safest air transportation system in the world. Aiming a laser at an aircraft is a serious safety hazard that puts everyone on the plane and on the ground below at risk. It is also a violation of federal law. To reduce laser attacks, the agency conducts outreach to educate the public about the hazards of lasers aimed at aircraft. The agency also works closely with other federal agencies and state and local governments to report and investigate incidents, help apprehend suspects, and advocate for the prosecution of offenders.

Two reports of lasers happened Friday, Nov. 18 when pilots from Alaska and Delta airlines said they were hit by green lasers as they approached the airport.

A third incident happened on Saturday, Nov. 19 when an Alaska Airlines crew said they were targeted with a laser southeast of Sea-Tac at an altitude of 4,800 feet.

Pointing a laser at an airplane is a huge safety concern, the FAA highlights. With some “high-powered lasers” capable of incapacitating pilots flying their aircrafts.

The penalty if caught pointing a laser at a plane could be as high as $11,000 per violation.

According to data released by the FAA, 9,723 incidents of aviation laser strikes were reported in 2021. According to Gregor, that’s a forty percent increase from the year before. With data from this year, there have been 253 reported laser strikes in the Seattle area as of October 2022.

John La Porta is a pilot and flight instructor in the Seattle area. La Porta says a few weeks ago he was disoriented by a bright light while flying out of Paine Field in Everett.

“If I get blinded, it’s not just lighting up the cockpit and not being able to see for that moment,” said La Porta, “You could actually take somebody’s vision away.”

Members of the public who have witnessed an individual shining a laser at aircraft can report the incident to the FBI, FAA, or local law enforcement. Tip lines include 206-622-0460 (FBI’s Seattle Field Office), 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324), or tips.fbi.gov. The public may also e-mail the FAA at laserreports@faa.gov.