Lasers pointed at aircraft – a dangerous trend that has to stop

Pointing a laser at an aircraft is neither a game nor a bright idea – it’s a criminal act

To the editor:

When I sit in an aircraft, I have full confidence in the abilities of the pilot and the crew.

But what about external factors?

Some of them can be mitigated. Airport authorities can decide to cancel or delay a flight based on the weather.

But when an individual points a laser at a pilot during a flight, that’s another story. These situations can have serious consequences.

The number of incidents involving lasers being pointed at aircraft in Canada continues to increase. In 2015, 590 incidents were reported; this is a 68 per cent increase over 2012.

This alarming trend is continuing: 148 incidents were reported from Jan. 1 to April 30, 2016. On average, this is 10 incidents a week.

There are serious consequences.

When distracted by a laser, pilots can be temporarily blinded, causing them to lose their concentration. This is a significant danger, since the majority of the laser-pointing incidents happen when the crew is taking off or landing.

The simple act of pointing a laser at an aircraft could cause a major accident and endanger the pilot, crew, passengers and people on the ground.

Before you decide to point a laser skyward, be aware that it is a federal offence. An individual found guilty under the Aeronautics Act is liable to a fine of up to $100,000 and/or up to five years in jail.

People should report an incident.

Transport Canada is collaborating with police services, other departments and the air industry to remind Canadians that this technology must be used carefully.

I am also counting on you to spread the word. If you see an incident involving a laser, contact your local police service.

On behalf of pilots and all Canadians who travel by air, I would very much appreciate it.

Pointing a laser at an aircraft is neither a game nor a bright idea – it’s a criminal act. Let’s solve this problem today before it’s too late.

Marc Garneau

Federal Minister of Transport