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The danger that laser pointers present to the safe operation of an aircraft is serious. What may appear to be a relatively harmless device can actually be a deadly weapon if used irresponsibly. A laser directed at an aircraft can fill a cockpit with blinding light and puts the pilot, crew, passengers, and people on the ground at risk.

The hand-held laser devices that are available on the market now are incredibly powerful. The new generation of lasers can generate power of up to 5W, or 5000 times the power of keychain laser pointers popular in the 1990s.

With little regulation on the purchase and operation of these devices, the potential for their misuse is great.

In the case of a laser strike a pilot must file an aviation occurrence report (AOR) if he/she sees a laser or other bright light illumination. There were 435 reports made of laser attacks on aircraft between June 1, 2016 and May 31, 2017. For the same time period the year prior, there were 549, which represents a decrease of 21%. While this is a step in the right direction, it is still an incredibly dangerous occurrence, and can potentially be catastrophic.

Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a criminal offence. Under the Aeronautics Act, people convicted of pointing a laser at an aircraft could face up to $100,000 in fines and/or 5 years in prison. Transport Canada is taking action to educate the public of the dangers of lasers through a series of videos and on their website.

NAV CANADA has been working on several initiatives to help in the reduction of laser strikes. Training sessions with the Air Transport Association of Canada and the Canadian Chiefs of Police are helping to educate people on the dangers of these incidents and what could happen when they occur. The Vancouver FIR has implemented changes to its reporting system to improve coordination and speed up the time in which information regarding a laser strike is transmitted to the appropriate law enforcement agency so that they can act quickly to find the perpetrator.

Safety is the number one priority in all the work that NAV CANADA undertakes, and we continue to share valuable information on laser strikes and other aviation occurrence reports with entities like the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO). We also continue to facilitate the Canadian Aviation Safety Officer Partnership (CASOP), which shares best practices and works to collaboratively manage safety risks in our industry.

If you see someone point a laser at an aircraft, report it to your local police immediately. If you experience a laser strike, report it immediately to ATC and complete Transport Canada’s incident reportOpen a new window

Click hereOpen a new window for more information on Transport Canada’s program to stop incidents of lasers being pointed at aircraft.