3 Jan 2017

Pilots call for total ban on high-power lasers

5:34 pm on 3 January 2017

The Air Line Pilots' Association is calling for a total ban on high-powered lasers after reports one was aimed at a plane leaving Wellington.

Plane wing at night with sunset (stock)

Photo: 123RF

Police received a call from a member of the public last night, who reported seeing what looked like a laser being pointed from the south-east end of the city's airport.

A member of the Wellington Airport Spotters' forum said they saw the laser being pointed at the Singapore Airlines flight to Canberra.

The member's post said it was endangering the lives of people on board and urged planespotters to report any similar sightings.

The Air Line Pilot's Association said it was worrying that laser strikes on planes were continuing to happen.

President Tim Robinson said it was disappointing, and the capability of the type of lasers being used was among the strongest.

"They can cause confusion to the pilots, they can actually cause temporary blindness if it's directed straight at the pilot's eyes. They can cause headaches and they can clearly disrupt the flow of the pilot during this critical phase of flight, and that's why it's such a serious issue for us."

According to the Civil Aviation Authority, the number of reported laser strikes increased from 104 in 2015 to 128 last year.

In December, a Christchurch man was jailed for pointing a laser pointer at several aircraft at the city's airport earlier in the year.

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 Robinson said the pilots' association wanted a total ban on the lasers.

"There is a current law that prevents the importation and sale of these high-powered lasers unless there is a specific reason for their use," he said.

"But we see that the danger outweighs the utility of them and we would like to see a complete ban."

The frequency of laser strikes was really starting to alarm its members, he said.

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  • Plane struck by laser leaving Wellington
  • Fears lasers will lead to air tragedy