Nova Scotia

Transport Canada worried by lasers striking N.S. flights

Several airlines flying in Nova Scotia have reported incidents in which laser beams were shone into airplane cockpits as flights were taking off or landing.

Several airlines flying in Nova Scotia have reported incidents in which laser beams were shone into airplane cockpits as flights were taking off or landing.

Transport Canada refused to be interviewed but in a statement, the agency said: "We are concerned with the increasing number of these incidents."

The latest incident happened at 10:50 p.m. on Jan. 7 in Sydney, N.S. The pilot on a Jazz Air flight reported a green laser shone into the cockpit at 1,200 metres on departure.

This behaviour can be a hazard to flights, says Kimberly Hall, associate professor with the Atmospheric Science Department at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

"Someone was playing a game and didn't realize how dangerous it was. Even from one kilometre away, the beam would be disorienting," she said Monday.

"It could temporarily blind a person. You can imagine that someone who is doing such an important task as trying to control an airplane near takeoff or landing, when these incidents tend to happen, it's absolutely dangerous. It's a terrible thing to do."

Air Canada and ExpressJet Airlines also reported laser incidents while approaching Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Oct. 11, 12, and 13, 2009.

On Oct. 13, an American ExpressJet flight from Newark, N.J., reported several cockpit strikes from a green laser as it came in for landing in Halifax. The source was Halifax harbour.

Two days earlier, on Oct. 11, an Air Canada flight into Halifax also reported that a laser was tracking the aircraft.

The Air Canada pilot said it appeared the laser was targeting the plane, and the beam appeared to emanate from the Halifax waterfront.

All three flights continued without any problem.

The penalty for aiming a laser into a cockpit is  $100,000, five years in prison or both under the Aeronautics Act, says Transport Canada's website.

To the middle of November 2008, Transport Canada's civil aviation daily occurrence-reporting system indicated that 62 incidents of the bright lights being directed into cockpits to that point in the year.

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