Nashville seeing growing trend of laser strikes on commercial flights


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Green lasers pointed into the cockpit of aircrafts has become a growing trending in Nashville. So much so, the FAA is now asking for the public’s help in finding suspects who purposefully violate regulations.

“Locally in Tennessee, we had 197 laser strikes in 2020,” said Michael O’Harra, Regional Administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration Southern Region. “Nashville had the most of any city in the state.”

O’Harra says 2021 could very well be worse than 2020. There were 12 laser strikes reported to the FAA before March 6, 2021.

“The trend isn’t good,” said O’Harra. “The year to date numbers for Nashville in January and February this year, were higher than last year.”

The latest incident involved an American Airlines flight Tuesday night from Charlotte, North Carolina. Around 8:45pm, FAA officials say a green laser illuminated the cockpit of the flight as it was descending to land into BNA. The same laser was also pointed toward a tractor trailer driver on I-40.

“When a laser hits the cockpit glass, it essentially illuminates a dark room,” said O’Harra. “The scary part is, it happens at the most critical phase. These aircraft are typically at lower altitude either arriving or departing local airports like BNA.”

O’Harra says green lasers can cause the pilot to become distracted, cause temporary blindness or in worse cases, permanent eye injury.

The FAA is now encouraging members of the community to report anyone who intentionally points a laser into an aircraft. The penalty can go up to a $11,000 fine per violation.

The FAA released this statement to News 2:

The crew of American Airlines Flight 2232 reported that a green laser illuminated their Airbus A320 around 8:45 p.m. local time on Tuesday while the plane was about 10 miles from Nashville International Airport. The aircraft landed safely and no injuries were reported. The flight took off from Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina. The FAA notified the Mount Juliet Police Department.

Federal Aviation Administration

Mt. Juliet police located and identified a suspect in this incident. The suspect was taken into custory, the laser device was confiscated and FAA officials are now investigating. The suspect has since been released pending a full investigation.

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