British Columbia

Langley, B.C., man charged with laser pointer crime

A 30-year-old Langley, B.C., man is facing a criminal charge of mischief along with two charges under the Aeronautics Act for pointing a laser at an RCMP helicopter.

A 30-year-old Langley, B.C., man has been charged with criminal mischief after pointing a laser beam at an RCMP helicopter.

Alexander William Schiller faces a criminal charge of mischief, along with two charges under the Aeronautics Act for endangering an aircraft by interfering with a crew member and for creating an airspace hazard.

Vancouver Police Const. Lindsey Houghton said the alleged incident took place April 15 at about 10:30 p.m. PT, when an RCMP helicopter was assisting his department.

"A man in a vehicle at East 17th Ave. and St. Catherines Street allegedly pointed a handheld laser at the helicopter's pilot and passenger," he said.

"Most people — I think — would understand the safety reasons why you wouldn't want to be pointing lasers at pilots operating highly-complex aviation instruments over residential areas."

Houghton said prosecution for this type of crime is extremely rare. Pilots have said that an increasing number of laser incidents represents real danger in the skies.

Canada's Civil Aviation Occurrence Reporting System holds records for three dozen laser-pointing incidents in B.C. skies over the past year.

An astronomer uses a laser pointer at an observatory in Bulgaria. The more powerful lasers used by astronomers can blind airplane pilots and endanger passengers. ((Petar Petrov/AP))

On Tuesday, someone believed to be in the vicinity of Main Street and 41st Avenue in Vancouver targeted a Helijet flight 4,000 feet in the air.

Capt. Barry Wiszniowski, a representative of the Air Canada Pilots Association, said that the narrow beam of a laser pointer expands to a blinding effect in a cockpit.

"The green lasers basically destroy our night vision," he said.

Only a handful of Canadians have been prosecuted, including a Calgary man fined $5,000 last summer.

Wiszniowski said offenders deserve jail time for risking the lives of pilots and passengers.

"The justice system is sort of behind the times on this," he said.

Schiller is scheduled to appear in court next on Sept. 11, 2012.  

With files from the CBC's Jason Proctor