Immature laser prank endangered hundreds
A 19-year-old man who put the lives of 600 people at risk by shining a laser light at three aircraft and a police helicopter landing at Auckland Airport has avoided a term of imprisonment.
Pravikash Chandra was instead sentenced to four and a half months home detention today at Manukau District Court.
Chandra pleaded guilty in July to four charges of endangering three commercial aircraft and a police helicopter after the incidents in January. Each of the four charges carried a maximum prison term of 12 months under the aviation act.
Chandra first shone his laser beam in the path of an aeroplane with 308 passengers aboard as it approached the airport over South Auckland. The pilot said it increased the complexity of landing the aircraft safely.
He then aimed his laser beam at a second aircraft, which was carrying 164 passengers, minutes later. The pilot said it caused significant problems during a 'critical' phase of landing and he almost had to abort the landing.
The third aircraft, which was flying from Christchurch, was also adversely affected by Chandra.
He later targeted a police helicopter which had flown out to look for the culprit after the pilots made complaints.
Defence lawyer Hernan Retzlaff said his client had behaved in an immature and ignorant fashion.
"You put the lives of 600 people at risk by your use of the laser which had no use," Judge Blackie said.
He said that ordinarily anybody who committed such a serious offence could expect to be receiving a custodial sentence.
However he noted that Chandra, who had no previous convictions, had expressed genuine remorse, was now aware of the dangers of his behaviour and had strong family support.