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New Zealand: Man disappears before sentencing on charge of aiming a laser at aircraft

On April 5 2016, Tane Hemopo, 39, was arrested for repeatedly aiming a “high powered” laser pointer at two passenger planes landing at Christchurch Airport. In one case, a Virgin Airlines aircraft with 121 passengers was illuminated for about 20 seconds while at 20,000 feet altitude, then was illuminated an additional three times while on final landing approach. The pilots were dazzled but did not report more serious eye effects. He also aimed at the airport control tower.

Hemopo admitted aiming at the aircraft, but not at the cockpit. He further said he was unaware the laser light could be dangerous.

In August 2016 Hemopo pleaded guilty to charges of “causing unnecessary danger.” This has a fine of up to NZD $10,000 and one year in prison.

The Crown dropped charges of “reckless disregard for the safety of others,” which has a maximum penalty of 14 years.

On September 28 2016, Hemopo failed to appear for sentencing. The judge issued an arrest warrant for Hemopo.

On December 1 2016, Hemopo was sentenced to 10 weeks in jail.

From Stuff.co.nz and the New Zealand Herald.

UK: 107 laser pens seized from house near Southampton Airport

British police in late September 2014 seized 107 laser pens from a house in Eastleigh, Hampshire, near the flight path of Southampton Airport.

In the ten weeks prior to September 26 2014, there were seven incidents of lasers being pointed at aircraft; five of these led to arrests.

News reports did not directly link the misuse to the man arrested with the 107 laser pens. It also is not known if the investigation that led to the seizure was started in response to the aircraft incidents, or was separately initiated. All flights landed safely.

One of the seized pens was said to be 650 times more powerful than normal. Given that U.K. regulations prohibit laser pointers above 1 mW, the pen was likely 650 milliwatts. This is Class 4, the most hazardous laser classification, as the beam can cause eye and even skin burns.

From the Daily Echo

Canada: UPDATED - Pilots suffer itching, irritation from laser strike while landing in Ottawa

Two WestJet Boeing 737 pilots suffered “minor itching and irritation” after they were illuminated by a green laser beam while landing at an Ottawa’s Macdonald Cartier International airport.

The incident occurred September 23 2014. The laser was pointed at the plane for around 2-4 minutes. Police are looking for the perpetrator.

Earlier in the month, on September 5, a Porter Airlines flight from Toronto was flashed with a green laser as it approached the Ottawa runway, according to CBC News.

A WestJet spokesperson said the pilots were cleared to fly and there was no permanent damage: “... there are real health repercussions for being exposed to a laser beam, so we do have a protocol in place where they will get checked out and there is also follow-ups.”
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South Africa: Laser aiming at aircraft is on the rise

The Citizen newspaper has a general description of how laser/aircraft incidents are increasing at King Shaka and Virginia airports in Durban, South Africa.

A police representative quoted in the May 24 2014 story indicated that there have been several incidents in the past few years. He said “These green lasers which are readily available, inexpensive and extremely powerful have huge potential for damage. In my opinion there is no commercial application for them and people shouldn’t have them. It’s an offence under the Civil Aviation Act and if prosecuted individuals can face a fine and/or imprisonment up to 10 years.”

Police are “clamping down on culprits” according to an airport spokesperson.

From The Citizen