A 30-year-old Langley man who shone a green laser pointer at an RCMP helicopter has been given a five-month conditional sentence that includes a curfew at night, one year on probation, and a ban on possessing lasers.
Alexander William Schiller was charged with mischief and violating the Canadian Aeronautics Act by endangering an aircraft, interfering with a crew member and creating an airspace hazard.
'It's like someone turns on a huge green light bulb in the cockpit.' —RCMP Cpl. Curtis Brassington
He pleaded guilty to all three charges in October, and was handed his sentence in Vancouver Tuesday.
In April 2011, Schiller pointed an illuminated green laser pointer up into the sky at a police helicopter. The beam was so bright it forced the crew to put on night vision equipment.
Some green laser pointers can produce beams 35 times more intense than similar red laser pointers and can cause permanent eye damage in a fraction of a second.
Cpl. Curtis Brassington, an RCMP Flight Officer, said the flash inside an airplane or helicopter from a small laser beam can be immediately blinding.
"It's like someone turns on a huge green light bulb in the cockpit," he said.
Crown Attorney Jason Krupa said that most offences involving lasers pointed at aircrafts aren't pursued, but in this case it was, because the target was the police.
"The fact it was a police helicopter meant that they had the equipment to locate him easier, but whether it's a civilian aircraft, commercial aircraft, police helicopter, the risk is the same. It's extremely dangerous," Krupa said.
The judge agreed with the Crown. In handing down her sentence, she said the offence was serious and a danger to aviation.
Schiller wrote a letter of apology to the RCMP pilot involved and repeated that apology outside the Vancouver courthouse Tuesday.
"I would say that I apologize. It was a reckless and stupid thing to do. It was a couple of years ago. We've dealt with it now," Schiller said.
Pilots across Canada continue to deal with the problem. In the last 12 months, Transport Canada has logged about 60 reports of laser strikes on aircraft in B.C., and around 350 reports across Canada.