Laser pointed at plane flying from Hamilton to Wellington

4 years ago
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Police are investigating after a powerful green laser was pointed into the cockpit of a commercial aircraft en route to Wellington Airport.

The passenger plane, flying south from Hamilton, was targeted by the laser strike about 10,500ft (3.2km) near Upper Hutt on Thursday, about 8.10pm.

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Both pilots suffered headaches and had their vision temporarily obscured, but managed to land the plane safely.

It was the latest in a string on laser strikes on commercial aircraft in New Zealand’s skies.

A fortnight ago, Hamilton police launched an investigation after a ground laser light was aimed at a commercial flight as it prepared to land.

An air traffic control tower staff member at Palmerston North Airport reported laser flashes in mid-July.

Police have begun area patrols in the Hutt Valley area to find those responsible for Thursday night’s strike.

“As well are doing area patrols, police now need the public’s help in finding the offender(s) who put people and the pilots at risk,” a police statement said.

“If anyone knows of a person with a laser, or witnessed one being operated this evening, please call police on 111.”

It is an offence under the Summary Offences Act 1981 for anyone, in a public place, to be in possession of a high-powered laser without reasonable excuse.

“Anyone found to be pointing lasers in cockpits can expect to be held to account through the court system and face serious charges,” police said.

MAJOR INCIDENTS

May 2011: Green laser repeatedly hit the Police Eagle helicopter in Auckland. Two people were arrested.

May 2012: A helicopter was targeted with a green laser while approaching Waikato Hospital.

Feb 2013: Two crew and a medical officer suffered vision impairment in a New Plymouth laser attack.

April 2013: Laser was pointed at a military helicopter operating at Whenuapai, Auckland.

Dec 2013: Eagle helicopter hit again with a green laser.

July 2014: A laser strike into a flight deck blinded both pilots of an Airbus approaching Auckland.

Feb 2015: Green and red laser allegedly pointed at Christchurch air traffic control tower for 5-8 minutes.

LASER STRIKES BY YEAR:

2011: 92
2012: 99
2013: 110
2014: 92
2015: 96

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