VANCOUVER —; They’ve gone from being used in public speaking presentations, to potentially endangering people’s lives.
There are renewed calls to enact legislation against lasers being used near airports, after three flights originating and landing at the Vancouver International Airport were targeted by someone pointing lasers this week.
“They’re just using it as target practice. There’s no rhyme nor reason to it. Generally it’s not done with malice, but it’s done with recklessness. They don’t understand the ramifications and what could happen if it did hit the pilots in the eye,” Sgt. Cam Kowalski of the Richmond RCMP told Global News.
“The powerful lasers that are available on the market today can cause instant retinal damage,” he says.
On Monday, there were three incidents involving planes at YVR being hit by lasers by someone on the ground at night. The thin beam can reach up to 160 km and if it hits the glass of the cockpit, the light can be blinding. Another plane, which departed from Vancouver and landed in Ottawa on Monday was hit with a laser when it landed at the Ottawa airport. The pilot is undergoing a full eye exam to ensure he has suffered no permanent damage.
“It’s gone up exponentially each and every year in Canada, the United States and around the world. The problem is lasers are more available, they’re more powerful and they’re cheaper,” says Kowalski.
With the laser incidents growing, Kowalski says police are lobbying nationally to have lasers prohibited.
According to Transport Canada, there are penalties already in place for people targeting aircrafts with these lasers.
“If convicted of pointing a laser into an aircraft cockpit, the offender could face the $100,000 maximum fine under the Aeronautics Act, imprisonment of up to five years, or both penalties.”
But Kowalski says, “the message doesn’t seem to be getting out.” He says he fears if changes aren’t made, it’s only a matter of time before a pilot is seriously injured, or worse —; there is a catastrophe caused by a laser.
–With files from Jill Bennett.