FAA warns against aiming holiday laser-light displays toward sky in effort to protect pilots

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Intentionally pointing holiday laser light displays at the sky can not only harm pilots but it's considered a federal crime, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). 

Amid the holiday season, the agency is urging anyone who is setting up laser-light displays to make sure their creations are aimed toward their home and not at the sky, in order to protect pilots who have reported being distracted and even temporarily blinded from such incidents every year, the FAA said.

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"The extremely concentrated beams of laser lights reach much farther than you might realize," the FAA said. "You might not realize this, but a well-meaning attempt to spread holiday cheer has the potential to create a serious safety risk to pilots and passengers on airplanes that fly overhead." 

According to the FAA, certain high-powered lasers can "completely incapacitate pilots who are trying to fly safely to their destinations."

Laser lighting show by Izmir Metropolitan Municipality is displayed during a celebration marking the 98th anniversary of liberation day of Turkey’s Izmir on September 9, 2020. (Mahmut Serdar Alakus/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images / Getty Images)

Anyone aiming their laser lights at the sky will be given a warning to adjust or turn them around. If they don't oblige, they could face a civil penalty of up to $11,000 per violation, according to the FAA. 

In a video posted to the FAA's YouTube channel, the agency says people can also face up to five years in jail. 

The government agency works with law enforcement agencies "to pursue civil and criminal penalties against individuals who purposely aim a laser at an aircraft." 

In previous cases, the FAA has imposed over $30,000 in civil penalties against individuals accused of multiple laser incidents. 

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The FAA says laser strikes against aircraft continue to increase each year. 

As of Nov. 22, there have been more than 8,500 laser strike reports this year alone, marking the highest number of laser strike incidents since the FAA began tracking these statistics over a decade ago. 

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