NZALPA continues to call for a total ban on lasers following an increasing trend of reported incidents. Such events are regularly leading national news bulletins, with NZALPA’s concerns at the centre of the debate.
A recent event at Wellington International Airport confirms the need for further action as use of lasers by the public “for fun” poses a major risk to pilots in take off and landing, NZALPA President Tim Robinson said.
Police are investigating the reports of a laser strike aimed at a Singapore Airlines plane on the evening of January 2 this year.
“NZALPA has been sending the message to both the regulatory authorities and the judiciary that custodial sentences may be a real deterrent to stop this kind of behaviour and actions that could quickly turn deadly,” Robinson said.
In December 2016, a Christchurch man who endangered passenger aircraft with a high-powered laser pointer was given a 10-week custodial sentence.
NZALPA applauded the decision.
“I was thrilled that the judiciary is taking this issue seriously by handing down a 10-week custodial sentence,” said Robinson.
The jailed man was originally charged with recklessly shining a laser light at a passenger plane and the airport control tower, but pleaded guilty to the two new charges of causing unnecessary danger to the people aboard a Virgin Airlines passenger plane and a New Zealand Post Metroliner.
“I’ve talked with pilots who have experienced similar laser strikes when trying to land a plane, often with many passengers and crew on board. They describe the confusion, temporary blindness and the resulting headaches as one of the most terrifying things they’ve ever gone through,” Robinson said.
International standards are recorded on the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) website: In the USA, the targeting of aircraft by lasers is taken very seriously … and some cases have been taken under anti-terrorist legislation with its inherent severe penalties.
Australia has introduced legislation under which laser misuse can be prosecuted, and some Australian states and the UK restrict the public sale of laser pointers to Class 2 (low-powered devices of less than one milliwatt (mW) or lower.
In the State of Victoria, pointers more powerful than one mW are classified as ‘prohibited weapons’.
New Zealand has no specific legislation addressing laser misuse at present.
“We want more restrictions on high-powered lasers in regard to acquisition and supply or just a total ban such as in the UK and some states in the US,” Robinson said.
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