Not a Bright Idea - Laser Use on Aircraft on the Rise

Aviation safety partners team up to raise awareness about the dangers of laser use
Today, Vancouver Airport Authority (YVR), Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Transport Canada joined forces to address the growing number of laser strikes on aircraft in the Lower Mainland. Aligned with Transport Canada’s national campaign, YVR and RCMP are spending the summer educating the public on the dangers of lasers pointed at aircraft and how to report incidents.

“It is a disturbing and troubling trend to see an increase in laser strikes on aircraft in our community,” said Craig Richmond, President & CEO, Vancouver Airport Authority. “With safety at the core of everything we do at YVR, we are asking the public to stop pointing lasers at aircraft and to report anyone doing so to the police. The bottom line is—don’t point a laser at an aircraft.”

In 2014, there were 80 laser strikes on aircraft in British Columbia, of which 52 were reported at YVR. Across Canada there were 502 laser strike incidents in 2014 —a 43 per cent increase in two years. Laser strikes typically occur when an aircraft is moving at slower speeds, during the crucial takeoff and landing maneuvers. When the light from a laser strikes the cockpit of an aircraft, it can distract and even temporarily blind the pilot, posing serious safety concerns for pilots and passengers. Helicopters are especially susceptible to these attacks as they operate at slower speeds and fly at lower altitudes.

“Handheld lasers are not a toy and pose a real credible threat to aviation safety,” said Sergeant Cam Kowalski, Richmond RCMP. “Police across the country give laser attacks on aircraft top priority for operational responses. Suspects who choose to target aircraft with lasers show a careless and wanton disregard for the safety of the pilots, passengers and the communities surrounding airports. Those caught will be prosecuted according to both federal and provincial acts and will be subject to substantial fines and jail time.”

YVR will spend the summer educating the public on the dangers of laser use by distributing materials at community festivals and through social media outreach. Transport Canada’s national campaign to address laser awareness will focus on the Lower Mainland as one of its key communities. A full run-through of their campaign outreach is available at www.tc.gc.ca/notabrightidea.

“It should be a no brainer that pointing lasers at any part of an aircraft is dangerous. This awareness campaign will help Canadians better understand the serious risks and consequences of pointing a laser at an airplane. By working closely with our partners, we can help to reduce the number of incidents at Canada’s airports.” The Honourable Alice Wong, Minister of State (Seniors), Government of Canada.

Anyone who witnesses a laser strike on an aircraft should report it to 911. For more information visit www.yvr.ca or www.tc.gc.ca/notabrightidea.