Laser strike danger on the rise

Three of the four stages of possible threats to aircraft safety from use of lasers are pictured in this simulation by the US Federal Aviation Administration. A pilot's view of an approaching runway by night (top) may be affected by ''distraction'', ''veil
Three of the four stages of possible threats to aircraft safety from use of lasers are pictured in this simulation by the US Federal Aviation Administration. A pilot's view of an approaching runway by night (top) may be affected by ''distraction'', ''veiling glare'' and ''flashblindness''. The fourth stage is eye damage - temporary or permanent injury. Photos by FAA.
A dozen potentially dangerous laser strikes on aircraft have been reported in Otago and Southland, as tough new controls on laser pointers come into effect.

Last year, a record 119 laser strikes on aircraft were recorded by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), compared with 10 strikes reported in 2006.

Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew said yesterday the new controls would restrict hand-held high-power laser pointers with a power output of 1MW.

Now, anyone wanting to import, sell or acquire high-powered laser pointers would need to apply to the Ministry of Health for approval, she said.

The CAA recorded five laser-strike incidents on planes so far this year, including a recent international flight landing at Auckland.

A CAA spokesman said large and medium-sized passenger aircraft were the most commonly targeted, and ''this means that laser strikes have the potential to cause an extremely high level of public harm in the case of an accident''.

Most of the laser strikes occurred during approach and landing, takeoff and climb-out.

Jo Goodhew
Jo Goodhew
''At these low-level, high-workload flight phases, the consequences of any temporary pilot-impairment or distraction are potentially catastrophic,'' he said.

Laser strikes could cause temporary flash blindness, which posed a serious risk to pilots. In 2011, a laser was pointed into an Air New Zealand cockpit while the plane was approaching Dunedin International Airport.

The pilot was able to pinpoint the location of the culprits and two young boys were given a warning by police in connection with the incident.


The numbers
Cases of laser strikes against aircraft since 2006. -
• Northland/Auckland ... 158
• Waikato ... 57
• BOP, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay ... 23
• Taranaki, Manawatu-Wanganui ... 30
• Wellington ... 53
• Nelson, Tasman, Marlborough ... 12
• West Coast ... 1
• Canterbury ... 42
• Otago, Southland ... 12
• No accurate location ... 3

Source: CAA


- hamish.mcneilly@odt.co.nz

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