30 Sep 2016

International flights hit in latest laser strikes

1:04 pm on 30 September 2016

Several international flights approaching Auckland airport have been hit by laser beams this morning, police say.

Airways, which manages the country's air traffic control services, says it received a report of a laser being shone into a cockpit at 5.10am.

Police said they were told of several international aircraft being targeted on approach to Auckland airport around the same time.

Pilots reported the lights had come from the vicinity of Weymouth but police said enquiries in the area had not turned up anything.

Auckland airport

Several international flights approaching Auckalnd airport were hit by laser beams Photo: 123RF

The strikes came just hours after a laser light hit a helicopter in Auckland and an Air New Zealand plane in Wellington.

Last night, air traffic controllers in Auckland received a report from a helicopter crew that it was struck by a green laser over the Weymouth area at around 9.40pm.

Helicopter at night

A helcopter was struck by a laser last night (File photo). Photo: 123RF

An hour earlier, in Wellington, a powerful green laser was pointed at the cockpit of an Air New Zealand plane as it prepared to land at Wellington airport, temporarily blinding the pilots.

The twin-engine ATR 72 - Flight NZ5091 - was travelling from Hamilton to Wellington. It was at an altitude of about 10,500 feet when it was targeted about 8.30pm, police said.

Both pilots suffered headaches and couldn't see for a time, but the plane later landed safely. It was believed the light came from near the motorway in the Trentham area.

Airline Pilots' Association president Tim Robinson told Morning Report landing a plane was a critical stage of flight nd the light from a laser could create confusion on the flight deck.

"It is a huge safety issue for pilots when we're relying very much on our sight, especially in the final stages of approach to come into land.

"[If] we're illuminated by a laser, it can have a huge effect on our ability to carry out the flight and the safety of the flight."

The Civil Aviation Authority said the targeting of planes coming in to land with laser beams could have catastrophic consequences.

Mark Hughes, the Authority's deputy director for air transport, said there had been 108 such events so far this year, more than in the whole of last year.

"The danger's really to the operation of the aircraft and safety of the aircraft, so pilots, particularly those who are operating at lower levels or on final approach to land could be temporarily blinded by a laser, so that could affect the control of the aircraft, and that temporary blindness affects the ability to land, possibly resulting in a go-around or, in the worst case, an accident."

Mr Hughes said despite laws restricting the importing and sale of the lasers, they were readily available online.


Police are looking for information about the laser strike. Photo: 123rf