Laser strikes can land you in jail

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April 4, 2024

Laser strikes can land you in jail

Laser pointers are not harmless toys.  Lasers that strike airplanes pose a significant safety risk and can incapacitate pilots.  Shining a laser at an aircraft distracts pilots from their safety duties and can lead to temporary blindness during critical phases of flight, such as takeoff and landing.  One victim likened the experience of a cockpit being illuminated by a laser to staring into the headlights of a freight train at close range, with vision impairment lasting up to three hours afterward.  In 2023, the Federal Aviation Administration received 13,304 reports from pilots, marking a 41% increase from the previous year. These incidents not only endanger pilots and passengers on all types of aircraft but also pose threats to individuals on the ground.

To address this issue, the Wichita Airport Authority established a laser strike group in January 2023. Comprising Airport Police and Fire, Operations, the Kansas Highway Patrol (KHP), and the Federal Aviation Administration, this group documents laser strike occurrences, their approximate locations, and times. Utilizing this information, the KHP strategically positions aircraft in areas where laser strikes have been reported, resulting in the apprehension of two individuals.

In 2023, the Airport Police and Fire Department recorded 30 laser strike incidents.  So far this year, there have been seven reported cases.

People who shine lasers at aircraft face stiff fines and criminal penalties from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

The civil penalties:

  • $11,000 per violation
  • $30,800 for multiple violations

Criminal penalties:

  • Up to 5 years imprisonment

If you are aware of a laser strike, please report it to the FAA and local law enforcement agencies.  Email [email protected] and include the following information:

  • Your name and contact information
  • Date and time you witnessed the laser incident
  • Location and description of the incident


Media Contacts   (316) 946-4700

Valerie Wise, Air Service & Marketing Manager

Jesse R. Romo, Director of Airports

Brad Christopher, Assistant Director of Airports

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