Why Lasers Pose A Threat To Pilots

Pilots have to deal with plenty of pressures in the cockpit. From monitoring data, to ensuring a clear runway, and preparing for the possibility of a go-around, landing can be incredibly stressful for pilots. To make matters worse, pilots landing at New York’s JFK Airport faced a rash of lasers being pointed at the cockpit. So, what threat do pilots face from lasers? Simple Flying takes a look.

Lasers threat pilots
Lasers can pose a significant threat to pilots maneuvering a plane for landing. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

Lasers pose a threat to pilots

It is a federal crime to aim a laser at an aircraft. As per the FAA, lasers can incapacitate pilots. Temporary blindness or distraction can place hundreds of passengers’ lives at risk. In a worst-case scenario, the incapacitation of both pilots from a laser attack could be highly problematic.

This is especially so in the case where pilots have to perform a go-around or if there is a new threat on the runway which could impede a pilot’s ability to land an aircraft. Laser damage can cause temporary or permanent damage to the eyes of pilots– as happened to a WestJet pilot.

Lasers on landing
Landing is one of the most dangerous periods of flight and a laser incident could wreak havoc. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

After landing, pilots have to maneuver the aircraft towards the gate or remote stand. Moreover, in the case of an emergency evacuation after landing, pilots play a crucial role in ensuring the safety of passengers and crew.

Aircraft on the ground
Even after landing, pilots play a crucial role in the safety of passengers and crew. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

Recent laser threats to pilots at JFK

CNN is reporting that someone has been pointing blue lasers at pilots landing in JFK. This is a severe safety risk and carries significant consequences. In the United States, this can carry a fine of up to $250,000 or five years in prison. Or, if the case is bad enough, both may be implemented. Anyone with information on this should contact the FBI field office in New York.

Aircraft landing
There are severe consequences for those who aim lasers at landing aircraft. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

As many widebody aircraft, including a number of Airbus A380s, arrive in JFK, a laser incident could lead to a catastrophe. Currently, aircraft do not contain mechanisms for blocking laser entry into the cockpit. And, although aircraft possess capabilities to land through an automated system, pilots are the front line of defense in case of any unforeseen circumstances or emergencies that could require quick action.

Cockpits and lasers do not mix well– especially during landing. Photo: Boeing


Lasers can cause both temporary and permanent eye damage. Shining lasers at aircraft is a very bad idea and can come with serious consequences. Moreover, incidents like these can put innocent passengers at risk.

What do you make of this situation? Let us know in the comments!

Also, if you have any information on lasers being shined at pilots landing at JFK, please contact local law enforcement.