scorecardresearch Skip to main content

The FAA warns you not to let your Christmas display distract pilots

A Colorado home was lit up for the holidays with a Star Shower Laser Light in lieu of traditional lights.Ryan David Brown/The New York Times

Could people’s holiday spirit cause problems for pilots steering their aircraft through the skies?

The Federal Aviation Administration is concerned that new holiday light displays that use lasers to project patterns on people’s houses could shoot past the houses into the sky, distracting pilots.

“The FAA’s concern is that lasers — regardless of the source — not be aimed at aircraft where the beams can threaten the safety of a flight,” the agency’s Eastern Region offices said Wednesday in a statement. “Consumers who buy laser light displays should take precautions to make sure that the lights are hitting their houses and not shining off into the sky.”


In November 2015, investigators in Sacramento were surprised when they tracked a laser strike to a Christmas display in a homeowner’s front yard near Sacramento State University, according to USA Today. The laser had interfered with a Coast Guard plane.

A police officer said he was surprised the laser didn’t trace the cockpit, which usually happens when a laser strikes a plane, USA Today reported.

Authorities in Texas had a similar surprise in December 2015, when an American Airlines crew reported a laser strike. It appeared to be coming from a North Texas home’s Christmas display, according to the city’s CBS affiliate. The FAA told them it was the first time they had heard about a holiday display causing problems for planes.

A Dallas police helicopter traced the beam to the home 22 miles east of the airport, the network reported.

The FAA shared both articles on its website.

Six aircraft were struck by lasers in the span of six hours Wednesday morning in Boston. The FAA said those strikes were under investigation, and they wouldn’t comment on the potential source of the beams,

But the general manager for aviation at MedFlight Boston said the lasers that hit the organization’s helicopter on two separate flights followed the aircraft for 10 to 15 seconds, likely ruling out a coincidental strike from a display.


Dylan McGuinness can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @DylMcGuinness.