Last updated: 03:46 PM ET, Fri December 11 2015

FAA: Laser Christmas Lights Are Interfering With Planes

Airlines & Airports | Rich Thomaselli | December 11, 2015

FAA: Laser Christmas Lights Are Interfering With Planes

It’s the cool, new, "as seen on TV" fad for the Christmas season. Instead of standing on a ladder and stringing lights across the outside of your home – a time-consuming and sometimes dangerous process – you can buy, for less than $50, a small laser cannon that projects lights onto your house.

The cannon, less than a foot long, can be programmed to show different lights that appear to dance across the front of your home in different colors, and all done by simply putting a stake in ground on your front lawn and projecting the images onto the house.

Ah, but therein lies a problem.

It appears that in trying to cover the whole height and width of the home, some users have them pointed too high – and they are interfering with planes.

According to the Los Angeles Times, an American Airlines pilot reported seeing a laser light from an altitude of 15,000 feet as he approached Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, and a U.S. Coast Guard plane reported someone shining a green light into the sky over Sacramento last month.

In both instances, it turned out to be holiday laser light cannon at someone’s home.

Now the Federal Aviation Administration is involved.

"Our concerns about lasers – regardless of the source – is that they not be aimed at aircraft where the beams can threaten the safety of a flight by distracting or blinding pilots," the FAA said in a statement. "Consumers who buy these new light displays should take precautions to make sure that the lights are hitting their houses and not shining off into the sky. In situations such as this, we would start by asking the person to either adjust them or turn them off."

It’s not that the FAA is playing Scrooge, but the agency and pilots alike have seen in recent months the havoc that laser lights can cause pilots when shined – most times maliciously – into an airplane’s cockpit.

Most people are surprised that such a fun device – and, to be clear, they are legal – is strong enough to reach that far beyond a house and go off into the horizon.

But 15,000 feet is not that high, and the lasers are strong enough to light up an entire cockpit, FAA spokesperson Lynn Lunford told CBS News Philadelphia.

 “I don’t think anybody who buys these devices even think they have enough power to hit an aircraft in the sky,” Lunford said. “If the box is aimed a little high, some of the lasers will not hit the roof of the house, they’ll keep going into space.”


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