23 Apr 2013

'Sheer luck' no one killed in plane laser strikes

7:26 pm on 23 April 2013

Police say it is sheer luck that no one was killed after two planes were struck by a hand-held laser at Wellington Airport.

One was a Jetstar Airbus A320 preparing to take off; the other was an Air New Zealand jet coming into land from Auckland on Monday night.

Sergeant Brent Cuzens said on Tuesday that whoever shone the laser put lives at risk.

"The plane itself that was coming in to land was only 150 feet off the ground when the pilot was struck by the laser, which obviously affects his eyesight at an extremely critical moment.

"It's probably pure luck that no one's been killed or injured."

The Air New Zealand plane carries up to 136 passengers, while the Jetstar Airbus A320 can take up to 180 passengers.

Mr Cuzens said police know that a green laser was shone from the south end of the runway, but have no security camera footage of that area. He urged anyone who saw the offender or knows who they are to come forward.

The Airline Pilots' Association's technical director said not only is it irresponsible to point lasers at an aircraft, it is also a threat to those on board because the flashbacks can be a distraction to pilots at a critical phase.

Stu Julian said pointing lasers at planes can also have long-term ramifications for pilots' sight.

In a statement, Wellington International Airport Ltd said pointing of lasers at aircraft or around any area of the airport is a serious offence.

Twelve laser strikes on aircraft have been recorded so far this year, while in 2012 there were 102 incidents.