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Pilots report increase in laser pointings near Penticton

Pilots reported three incidents in July when they were distracted by lights from the ground near the Penticton airport. Air Canada Jazz planes weren’t involved, but the company says it takes such safety matters very seriously. - Joe Fries/Penticton Western News
Pilots reported three incidents in July when they were distracted by lights from the ground near the Penticton airport. Air Canada Jazz planes weren’t involved, but the company says it takes such safety matters very seriously.
— image credit: Joe Fries/Penticton Western News

Pilots flying in the Penticton area notified Transport Canada and the RCMP three times in July about lights distracting them from the ground.

In two of the cases, airplanes were struck by lasers, while the third involved a helicopter pilot who spotted a light similar in brightness to a welding arc that was shining onto a runway approach.

There were just two other such incidents reported in the previous 14 months, according to a database maintained by Transport Canada.

“Three incidents would hardly be a big (spike) when you figure out how many flights there are 365 days a year,” said Penticton RCMP spokesman Sgt. Rick Dellebuur, “but certainly it’s got serious consequences if (a laser) gets in some pilot’s eye upon approach.”

No arrests have been made in connection with any of the incidents, all of which were reported to the RCMP.

“It would be a very hard one to catch someone associated with it, unless someone came forward,” Dellebuur said.

“In the air, (pilots) won’t know who the heck it is.”

None of the companies whose pilots were distracted by the lights in July responded to requests for comment.

However, a spokeswoman for Air Canada Jazz said the company, which wasn’t involved in the incidents but operates four round-trips daily from Penticton to Vancouver,  is aware of the problem.

“We take this activity very seriously and report any such incident to Transport Canada, the local police and airport authorities for investigation,” Debra Williams said in a statement.

“This is an industry issue and we at Jazz support the appropriate authorities doing all possible to put a stop to this type of activity.”

Transport Canada spokesman Ben Stanford noted in a statement that directing lasers at planes is an offence under the federal Aeronautics Act and anyone convicted could be fined up to $100,000 and sent to jail for five years.

Stanford said his agency has partnered with Health Canada to formalize a system to record such incidents, and has been working with law enforcement and astronomical societies to increase awareness about the risks associated with shining lights into the sky.

What they saw from up above:

July 10, 2014:

The pilot of a Cessna 172S en route from Kelowna to Penticton reported a blue laser strike while on approach. The laser appeared from a location about 800 metres southwest of the airport for about five seconds. No impact on aircraft operation.

July 9, 2014:

While en route from Kelowna to Penticton, the pilot of a Cessna 172N reported a green laser strike while on approach. The laser appeared from a location about 800 metres southwest of the airport. No impact on aircraft operation.

July 3, 2014:

A helicopter pilot travelling from Kelowna to Penticton reported a light similar to a welding arc, which was too bright to look at, on the ground just north of Giant’s Head Mountain in Summerland. The light was shining onto an approach for the Penticton airport and considered a possible hazard.

April 14, 2013:

Two pilots of Cessna 172s were inbound for a touch-and-go at Penticton airport when they both reported bright green lights, possibly lasers, in their cockpits.

Aug. 8, 2013:

Flight crew on a De Havilland Dash 8 bound for Kelowna from Seattle reported a green laser strike from the area of the downtown Penticton waterfront.

SOURCE: Transport Canada

 

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