Uplink ALPA - The Voice of Aviation

The New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association Newsletter. As of April 2020 Uplink ALPA is a 6-monthly publication.

Push for prohibition on lasers mounts as number of incidents double

Dangerous use of lasers should fall into the same category as highjacking or bomb threats, NZALPA again told the national media last month. 

The incidence of reported laser strikes is significantly increasing, from 99 in 2014 to more than double that number only four years later. NZALPA’s Tim Robinson is calling for full prohibition of the use of high powered battery operated hand held laser devices and is increasingly frustrated at the lack of action so far. 

“The Government response is to talk about balancing safety with the legitimate use of technology such as lasers and drones,” says Tim Robinson.

“Their lack of urgency and direction is very disappointing and we’ll continue to push for change.” 

Robinson acknowledges the difficulty of identifying people using lasers to blind pilots and ATCs. 

“When they can be identified we need strong regulations to respond with and also to act as a deterrent to others.”

Year  Laser incidents reported to Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)
 2014  99
 2015  87
 2016  132
 2017  171
 2018  228


“These latest figures justify our call for an outright ban on possessing high powered hand held laser pointers,” says Tim Robinson.

“The potential for a significant accident or crash is too high to justify the Government’s position. 

“There was even an incident of laser strike on the new Wellington ATC tower on its first day of operation, with several staff there reporting a laser being shone into their eyes.” 

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker's High-power Laser Pointer Offences and Penalties Bill (a Private Members Bill) has been drawn from the ballot and is awaiting introduction to the House. It proposes a doubling of the maximum fine to $4,000 and doubling of the term of imprisonment from three to six months. 

“While the Bill is a move in the right direction, we don’t believe this goes far enough and want to see complete prohibition along with the much tougher penalties. This will be a focus for us in 2019,” says Robinson.



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