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The FAA Declares War on Christmas

Reports of disruption from holiday lights and lasers are up in 2019

Watch out, Clark Griswold. The Federal Aviation Administration just issued a warning against holiday “laser light displays” aimed at the sky, which can interfere with pilots’ vision.

Between Jan. 1 and Nov. 23, the agency recorded 5,486 “laser incidents,” up from 4,949 in 2018. That total includes both holiday lights and laser pointers.

The FAA has issued this warning before, first in 2017 under the headline “Enjoy Your Holiday Laser-light Display Responsibly” and again in 2018 with “Make Sure Laser Light Displays Aren’t Aimed at the Sky.”

It appears the agency has lost its patience this year, titling the warning simply “Do Not Aim Laser-Light Display at Sky.”

“The extremely concentrated beams of laser lights reach much farther than might be realized,” the agency said in a statement. Besides aviation professionals, members of the public can also report laser-related incidents to the FAA.

According to the 2019 statistics, a majority of the lasers flagged by pilots were green, with some scattered reports of blue and red lasers. California reported the most incidents, followed by Texas and Florida.

When pilots notice the lasers, they notify the FAA, which hands the case to local authorities. Home decorators who install powerful lights that affect pilots will also be asked to adjust their displays, or simply turn them off. A refusal to do so could lead to a fine of up to $11,000 per violation. For multiple incidents, the FAA has imposed fines of up to $30,800.

On Home Depot’s online store, laser-strength Christmas lights retail for between $99 and about $150 (before sales tax).


@RyanBarwick ryan.barwick@adweek.com Ryan is a brands reporter covering travel, mobility and sports marketing.
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