Pilot complaints of blinding laser pens increasing

Officials say they are concerned about a rising number of complaints concerning blinding lights, such as laser pens, being directed at airplanes above Regina.

12 complaints in 2013, a jump from 5 complaints a year ago

Officials say they are concerned about a rising number of complaints concerning blinding lights, such as laser pens, being directed at airplanes above Regina.

Police and airport officials said Wednesday that 12 reports were filed in 2013, a jump from 5 complaints in 2012 and just 1 report in 2011.

"It can blind the pilots," Jim Hunter, the CEO of the Regina Airport Authority, told CBC Radio's Craig Lederhouse of The Afternoon Edition, Wednesday. "It's very, very dangerous."

Hunter noted the reports were not associated with any close calls at the airport, but he wants people to understand the risk to safety.

"These are not toys when they're used against airplanes," he said.

While Hunter said it is often difficult to track down a person using a pen, it has happened where a source was found and, when it turned out to be a young person, the parents were warned about the danger.

Police also noted the maximum fine for a conviction, under a federal aeronautics law, is $100,000. There are also provisions in the law for prison terms.

Hunter said the problem is most common at night.

"It's happened on departure, it's happened on arrival and the types of aircraft vary too," he said. "It's a potentially disastrous situation and we hope people will stop doing it."

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