Lights out

Pub­lic re­minded that laser point­ers are haz­ardous to pi­lots as P.E.I. RCMP probe sec­ond re­port of air­craft be­ing hit by laser

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE -

“Imag­ine your­self be­ing in an air­craft as you’re try­ing to land a very so­phis­ti­cated, com­pli­cated and large piece of ma­chin­ery and sud­denly you’re blinded. It’s a very se­ri­ous of­fence.” Aaron McCrorie

A crash is in­evitable if peo­ple con­tinue to point lasers at air­planes, a P.E.I. pilot warned Tues­day as Is­land po­lice an­nounced they were in­ves­ti­gat­ing the sec­ond such in­ci­dent in as many days.

John Brewer, who has been fly­ing planes for 50 years and holds a com­mer­cial pilot’s li­cence, said point­ing a laser at an air­craft is ex­tremely dan­ger­ous.

“There’s go­ing to be a ma­jor ac­ci­dent... It’s go­ing to hap­pen one of these days,” Brewer said from his home in Cavendish.

“Just pic­ture some­one shin­ing a spot­light in your face. You can’t see for a few sec­onds. That’s ba­si­cally what hap­pens, and if the pilot is hit in the eyes and the co-pilot doesn’t get a chance to re­act, you’re go­ing to have a crash land­ing — there’s no ques­tion about it.”

RCMP said it re­ceived a re­port on Satur­day that a green laser was pointed at a search and res­cue air­craft near Fern­wood, roughly 60 kilo­me­tres west of Char­lot­te­town.

Po­lice said the laser, which can tem­po­rar­ily blind pi­lots, was pointed at the air­craft for roughly 15 to 20 min­utes while it was con­duct­ing ex­er­cises.

Sara Keddy, a spokes­woman for the 14 Wing Green­wood air force base in Nova Sco­tia, said the 413 Trans­port and Res­cue Squadron was near Sum­mer­side late Fri­day when the left-side pilot was “daz­zled” by a laser.

In ad­di­tion to the pilot, she said three or four crew mem­bers aboard the Her­cules mil­i­tary air­craft were af­fected by the laser strike.

Keddy said the crew fol­lowed pro­to­col and re­turned to base. The pilot and crew mem­bers re­ported to the base med­i­cal clinic in the morn­ing and re­ceived an in­de­pen­dent as­sess­ment by an eye spe­cial­ist in the com­mu­nity.

None of the crew had se­ri­ous or last­ing vi­sion prob­lems be­cause of the laser strike, she said.

On Sun­day, a green laser was di­rected into the cock­pit of a com­mer­cial air­craft as it ap­proached the air­port in Char­lot­te­town.

Po­lice said the WestJet pas­sen­ger air­craft en­coun­tered the beam of light at around 11 p.m. as it flew over the Brack­ley Beach area.

The laser shone in the cock­pit for about five to 10 sec­onds, and the pilot landed the plane without in­ci­dent a few min­utes later.

The Moun­ties said Tues­day they re­ceived a call from a mem­ber of the pub­lic who wit­nessed Sun­day’s in­ci­dent.

The wit­ness said he was on the beach late Sun­day hop­ing to see the North­ern lights when he saw a fam­ily with a young child who ap­peared to be 10 to 12 years old.

The child was play­ing with a green laser light and point­ing it at sev­eral things in­clud­ing two planes that came across the sky, he said.

The wit­ness told po­lice that the child ap­peared to be “trac­ing” the path of the plane with the laser and did not ap­pear to be try­ing to shine it specif­i­cally in the cock­pit of the plane.

RCMP said lasers should not be used for en­ter­tain­ment or given to young chil­dren who are un­aware of the dan­ger they can pose.

Brewer, who owns a busi­ness that re­pairs and main­tains air­planes, said he be­lieves not ev­ery­one is aware of the grav­ity of shin­ing a laser at a plane.

“I think in some cases it’s young peo­ple and they don’t re­al­ize the con­se­quences,” said Brewer, who has never ex­pe­ri­enced a laser be­ing pointed into his own air­craft.

Aaron McCrorie, di­rec­tor gen­eral of civil avi­a­tion at Trans­port Canada, said two laser in­ci­dents in one week­end around Char­lot­te­town is a con­cern.

“We’ve seen a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease and that is of con­cern for us,” he said, adding that the in­ci­dents usu­ally oc­cur at crit­i­cal points, like land­ings and take­offs.

The num­ber of laser strikes across the coun­try re­ported to Trans­port Canada bal­looned from 333 in 2012 to 590 in 2015, he said. Last year, 527 laser strikes were re­ported.

Only one laser strike was re­ported in P.E.I. over the last five years in 2015.

McCrorie said peo­ple are likely point­ing the lasers as a prank and not con­sid­er­ing the con­se­quences.

“Imag­ine your­self be­ing in an air­craft as you’re try­ing to land a very so­phis­ti­cated, com­pli­cated and large piece of ma­chin­ery and sud­denly you’re blinded,” he said.

“It’s a very se­ri­ous of­fence.”

Some pi­lots have suf­fered se­ri­ous eye dam­age as a re­sult of laser strikes, McCrorie said.

Shin­ing a laser at an air­craft is a fed­eral of­fence and could carry fines of up to $100,000 and five years in prison — or both, he said.

Last year, Trans­port Canada launched a so­cial me­dia cam­paign — #NotABrightIdea — to ed­u­cate peo­ple about the dan­gers.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.