Laser strikes plane over Rolleston, Canterbury

Crew could suffer permanently damaged retinas from laser strikes. (File photo)
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Crew could suffer permanently damaged retinas from laser strikes. (File photo)

A red laser pointed at a plane flying over Rolleston could have caused a fatal crash, police say.

A person on the ground shot a laser at a Mount Cook Airline plane, a regional airline based in Christchurch, about 8.30pm on Sunday.

The laser came from the vicinity of Beaumont and Strauss drives.

A police statement said they wanted to use the incident to highlight the dangers of such actions. It could have led to "the potential loss of an aircraft or someone's life", they said.

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If the laser reached the cockpit, it could visually impair the pilot. Lasers could be painful, cause headaches and permanently damage retinas. In 2014, a laser strike into a flight deck blinded both pilots of an Airbus approaching Auckland.

Figures show pilots and medical staff in New Zealand have been blinded up to 100 times a year, jeopardising passenger flights and rescue missions.

In 2016, several international flights were targeted by laser strikes near Auckland Airport. Those strikes came after a powerful green laser was pointed into the cockpit of an Air New Zealand aircraft en route to Wellington Airport. Two people were arrested after a green laser repeatedly hit the Police Eagle helicopter in Auckland in 2011.

The Civil Aviation Authority earlier said direct exposure to some lasers, which generated up to five milliwatts of power, could result in momentary "flash blindness", with possible after-images of varying length, it said.

Airline pilots' union NZALPA slammed those targeting planes and said laser attacks were "extremely dangerous", but claimed perpetrators often seemed to get little or no punishment.

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Anyone with any information on the Rolleston incident should contact Senior Constable Glen Tweedie or Sergeant Grant Stewart at Rolleston Police.

MAJOR INCIDENTS

May 2011: Green laser repeatedly hit the Police Eagle helicopter in Auckland. Two people were arrested.

May 2012: A helicopter was targeted with a green laser while approaching Waikato Hospital.

Feb 2013: Two crew and a medical officer suffered vision impairment in a New Plymouth laser attack.

April 2013: Laser was pointed at a military helicopter operating at Whenuapai, Auckland.

Dec 2013: Eagle helicopter hit again with a green laser.

July 2014: A laser strike into a flight deck blinded both pilots of an Airbus approaching Auckland.

Feb 2015: Green and red laser allegedly pointed at Christchurch air traffic control tower for 5-8 minutes.

Sep 2016: Lasers pointed at several international flights near Auckland Airport.

 - Stuff

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