Airplane laser incidents draw police warning

Lasers flashed pilots 52 times near Vancouver Airport in 2014

Pilots flying near YVR are increasingly having to contend with the blinding effect of lasers being flashed at them from the ground.

It happened 52 times last year and there’s been a 43 per cent jump in laser strikes on planes across the country.

“It is a disturbing and troubling trend to see an increase in laser strikes on aircraft in our community,” Vancouver Airport Authority president and CEO Craig Richmond said.

He’s urging the culprit to stop doing it and wants anyone else who witnesses the dangerous practice to call 911 and report the offenders.

Anyone convicted of pointing a laser at an aircraft can face up to $100,000 in fines and five years in prison.

Laser strikes typically occur when an aircraft is moving at slower speeds, such as during takeoff and landing. When the light from a laser strikes the cockpit of an aircraft, it can distract and even temporarily blind the pilot, posing serious safety concerns for pilots, passengers and people on the ground.

Helicopters are especially susceptible as they operate at slower speeds and fly at lower altitudes.

“Handheld lasers are not a toy and pose a real credible threat to aviation safety,” RCMP Sgt. Cam Kowalski said.

“Suspects who choose to target aircraft with lasers show a careless and wanton disregard for the safety of the pilots, passengers and the communities surrounding airports.”

YVR, police and Transport Canada unveiled a new public education campaign Wednesday that can be found at www.tc.gc.ca/notabrightidea.

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