United, Southwest pilots report laser strikes at Sky Harbor on Super Bowl Sunday

Two commercial pilots reported laser strikes near Sky Harbor airport on Super Bowl Sunday.
Two commercial pilots reported laser strikes near Sky Harbor airport on Super Bowl Sunday.(Arizona's Family)
Published: Feb. 16, 2023 at 2:09 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - The FAA is investigating after two commercial aircraft were hit by lasers in Phoenix on Super Bowl Sunday, On Your Side has learned. The agency says pilots of United and Southwest Boeing 737 aircraft reported laser strikes at an altitude of about 5,000 feet near Sky Harbor Airport. Both laser strikes happened around 9:30 p.m. on Feb. 12. No injuries were reported. Local authorities were also alerted, according to the FAA.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the FAA said, “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 combat the threat, Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen requested laser manufacturers add a warning label to their packaging to make consumers aware of the safety risks and federal laws when using lasers.”

In 2022, pilots reported 9,500 laser strikes throughout the country. Since 2010, 278 pilots have reported injuries related to laser strikes, the agency said. People who are caught shining lasers at aircraft could be fined up to $11,000 per violation.

Meanwhile, Nolen was on Capitol Hill Wednesday, answering lawmakers’ questions about other safety concerns in the air, including recent near-collisions and the nationwide ground stop caused by the failure of the Notice To Air Missions System. Nolen says the agency is planning an extensive safety review.

“Can I say to the American public that we are safe? The answer is that we are. If the question is can we better be better? The answer is absolutely, and that’s the piece we’re working on,” he said during the hearing.