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