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US: UPDATED - 6,753 laser/aircraft incidents reported to FAA in 2017; 9% lower than 2016

UPDATED May 5 2019: In April 2019, FAA released new data that lowered the totals for some years, especially 2015 and 2016. The story and chart below uses the older, original data originally released by FAA showing 7,703 laser illuminations reported in 2015, 7,442 reported in 2016 and 6,753 reported in 2017. Statistics elsewhere at LaserPointerSafety.com use the new data of 7,346 reported in 2015, 7,398 reported in 2016 and 6,754 reported in 2017. For more on the FAA change, see this story.

During 2017, there were 6,753 laser illumination incidents reported to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. This compares with 7,442 reports in 2016, and 7,703 reports in 2015. This is a 9% drop compared with 2016, and a 12% drop compared with 2015.

2017 laser strikes FAA 2004-2017 600w

Here is the same data, plotted to show the average number of illuminations per day, during each year:

2017 laser strikes FAA each day 600w

For additional charts and statistics, click the “read more” link.

Most of the 2017 incidents involved green lasers. The proportions are about the same as in 2016, with a slight rise in blue lasers (3.7% in 2017 compared with 2.9% in 2016) and a drop in “unknown” (0.7% in 2017 compared with 2.0% in 2016).

2017 color of laser strikes FAA 700w

There were about 33 reports where the laser was known or suspected to come from “Christmas” or “holiday” lights. This represents 0.5% of all 2017 laser reports. Despite the proliferation of holiday laser lights, the proportion of “red and green” laser sightings was the same in 2017 as in 2016: 0.6%.

The chart below shows the number of laser illuminations for every single day from 2007 through 2017. The light blue line shows each day’s illumination reports. This number can vary widely from one day to the next. The dark blue line is a 60-day moving average; this helps smooth out the data in order to show longer-term trends.

Laser strikes every day 2007-2017 800w

Here is the same data, except that each year is superimposed in a different color. This makes it easier to see how laser illuminations vary throughout each year. (Note that January is not shown because the data is a 30-day moving average, so the plotting starts with Jan. 31. Also note that because of the 30-day averaging, the maximum number of laser illuminations in a day appears to be about 36, when as shown by the chart above, the maximum number on any one day was 65.)

Laser strikes every day superimposed 2007-2017 600w

Yet another way to look at trends within a year is to view the cumulative number of laser illuminations. Each year starts with 0 illuminations, then rises to the yearly maximum on Dec. 31. For example, you can see that in 2017 and 2016, there were more incidents early in the year and fewer later in the year, compared with 2015. In all years except 2015, the lasing rate was relatively steady — the number of incidents is more-or-less continuously rising throughout a year.

Laser strikes cumulative each year 2007-2017 600w