30 Sep 2016

More than 100 laser strikes reported this year

7:35 pm on 30 September 2016

There have been 108 laser strikes on planes so far this year - more than in the whole of last year, the Civil Aviation Authority says.

Plane wing at night with sunset (stock)

The Civil Aviation Authority said pilots could be blinded for minutes at a time when struck by a laser. Photo: 123RF

Pilots on a regional flight landing in Wellington last night were temporarily blinded and suffered headaches after a laser beam was pointed at the cockpit.

This morning, a helicopter and several international flights reported similar strikes in Auckland.

Civil Aviation Authority deputy director Mark Hughes said pilots could be blinded for minutes at a time when struck by a laser, which could have catastrophic consequences.

"There have been a few cases of lasting effects on pilots globally, and there is a risk of these increasing as the power of these devices increases."

Laser pointers are not banned in New Zealand but, in 2013, the government introduced regulations restricting the importation, sale and acquisition of lasers with an output of more than one milliwatt.

Mr Hughes said they were still getting into the hands of the wrong people.

There are regulations restricting the importation, sale and acquisition of lasers in New Zealand.

There are regulations restricting the importation, sale and acquisition of laser pointers in New Zealand. Photo: 123rf

"Despite the regulations they are still available on the internet so people do have them, and unfortunately they are using them in a negative way which is impacting the safety of others."

Police were investigating the laser strike attacks and said anyone caught could face charges of endangering transport or criminal nuisance.

Senior Constable Shane Gealey said anyone using a laser pointer on an aircraft was putting the lives of those on board in serious danger.

"While to the person pointing the laser it may just be a little dot of light, whereas for the person on the other end, it is a large illumination that can cause eye damage, flash blindness and headaches.

"All reports of laser strikes are treated seriously by police and investigated [and] charges for those caught can be significant," Mr Gealy said.

He said, if possible, a police helicopter would fly the area where the strikes happened to try and pinpoint and track the visual line of the laser.

The Eagle helicopter has itself been hit by 10 major laser strikes within the last year, including an incident in Otahuhu last week.

The offender was caught and referred to Youth Aid, the police said.

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