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New Zealand: 100 incidents in 2011; pilots want Class 3 laser imports banned

The New Zealand Air Line Pilots Association (NZALPA) has called for a ban on importation of Class 3 and 4 lasers. President Glen Kenny said that laser “strikes” have been increasing and “It has reached a stage where any member of the public can purchase a commercial grade laser and do what they please with it.” A ban would mean that only lasers with powers below 1 milliwatt could be imported for the general public.

There are currently no restrictions on the public’s ownership of lasers in New Zealand.

NZALPA’s technical director Stu Julian told TV ONE that if the laser incidents continue, they could cause a crash due to distracting a pilot when they have minimal reaction time.

According to the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority, there were 100 laser pointer incidents in 2011, with 40 of those at the Auckland airport. A spokesperson for the Eagle police helicopter said the crew had lasers pointed at them “all the time. It happens fairly often and it’s a real risk to the crew.”

From MSN NZ, TVNZ, Scoop NZ, and the New Zealand Herald. The text of a Feb. 7 2012 press release from NZALPA is below (after the “Read More” link). Thanks to Mark Wardle of NZALPA for bringing this to our attention. The New Zealand Herald link has a list of selected New Zealand laser incidents. To find all aviation incidents from New Zealand reported at LaserPointerSafety.com, click here.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012, 4:11 pm
Press Release: New Zealand Airline Pilots' Association
New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association

For Immediate Release

07 February 2012

NZALPA Calls on the Government to Restrict Access to Class 3 Lasers

New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association (NZALPA) President Glen Kenny is calling on the Government to enact a legislation change banning the importation of Class 3 Lasers to address the serious threat of laser illumination of commercial aircraft (laser strikes). "At best laser strikes are a distraction and at worst they can cause temporary blindness, or even permanent eye damage, and at a critical phase of flight, on approach and close to landing; this is extremely dangerous" says Mr Kenny.

Laser strikes are a trend NZALPA has seen increase over the past couple of years, and it is now high time the Government addressed the issue and introduced regulations and a public education campaign. “It has reached a stage where any member of the public can purchase a commercial grade laser and do what they please with it” states Mr Kenny.

NZALPA is advocating for legislation change similar to the Australian Government’s changes that banned the importation of lasers that emit a beam stronger 1mW from July 2008. This change would remove access to the higher powered lasers and remove the access to individuals shining them at commercial aircraft.

There have been several people before the courts charged over their highly dangerous actions with lasers, most recently two teenagers who shone a laser at the Police Eagle helicopter. The public needs to be informed “These guys have made a stupid mistake, however this decision they made could have serious consequences. Laser strikes are not just an attack on pilots; they are an attack on the travelling public and can at best be described as reckless and dangerous” Mr Kenny said.

This is not only a threat for the aviation industry, but as we have seen in a previous case involving the
Interislander ferry, lasers pose a threat to all forms of public transport. It’s a senseless act that one day could have fatal consequences.

IFALPA background information on laser illumination effects)