Pilots complain that laser beams destroy their night vision when pointed at the cockpit and could potentially cause a fatal accident. ((CBC))

There have been 129 incidents of people aiming a laser into an airplane's cockpit in Canada this year, according to Transport Canada.

Lasers were pointed at 45 planes in Quebec to date in 2010, with 28 reported at Montreal's Trudeau International Airport. Ontario pilots were targeted 43 times.

Shining a laser into a plane's cockpit is a federal offence under the Aeronautics Act. Anyone caught pointing a laser beam at a plane can be fined $100,000 and face up to five years in jail or both.

Nevertheless, it's a growing problem, says the head of the Air Canada Pilots Association's technical and safety division.

"The distraction generated by these green lasers destroys our night vision," said Cpt. Barry Wiszniowski, adding the beams could cause an accident if a pilot's vision is compromised.

In 2005, there were only three recorded incidents, compared to 2009 when there were 108 incidents and this year's total which has already surpassed last year's figure.

Wiszniowski said his association recently approached Canada's transport minister to talk about the growing problem.


The green laser beams are typically used to pinpoint stars. ((CBC))

"We want to have the Aeronautics Act enhanced by having the Criminal Code of Canada also reflect the seriousness of [this crime]," Wiszniowski said.

The pilot said jurisdictions such as Australia have an outright ban on the use of laser beams, which are typically used by teachers or astronomers to pinpoint stars.

Four people have been arrested for aiming lasers at aircraft in Canada: one person in Edmonton who was later acquitted, two in Calgary and a 15-year-old boy in Cape Breton, N.S., who said he did it as a prank.

Transport Canada said it does take the matter seriously, but does not like to publicize the issue for fear of inciting copycats.