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Disappointing’ Sentence For Endangering An Aircraft

Disappointing’ Sentence For Endangering An Aircraft With A Laser Highlights Need For Stronger Laws

The New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association (NZALPA) says the sentencing of the latest offender to be found guilty of endangering an aircraft is `disappointing’ and that the law needs to be toughened.

NZALPA calls on the Government to make the pointing of lasers at an aircraft a specific offence and for the courts to make clear this is a very serious and dangerous matter and not a prank

Commenting on the sentencing at Auckland’s District Court of Mr Christian Larsen, who today was sentenced to 100 hours Community Service and attending an alcohol related rehabilitation course, having pleaded guilty to a charge of Endangering Transport, for having pointed a laser at a helicopter in Auckland earlier this year, Wayne Renwick, President of NZALPA says:

`We call on the Government to act before we have a serious incident, and make the pointing of lasers at an aircraft a specific offence. The lives of pilots, passengers and the general public alike, are being put at risk every week. Specific legislation is needed and sentences handed down to reflect this.

‘Although pleased by the conviction of Larsen – we are very disappointed indeed at the sentence handed down in this case. The number of incidents of laser beams being shone into aircraft cockpits and the potential for catastrophe as a result of the blinding of pilots, has increased dramatically in recent years. Sentences handed down to those found guilty of related offences should receive the maximum custodial and financial penalties possible under the law, to send the message that this is a very serious and dangerous offence and not merely a prank.’

The Crown Solicitor suggested a starting point of two years imprisonment to the Judge, but Defence Counsel submissions were that this was his first offence and that this, combined with his issues with addiction and genuine remorse for his actions, should be taken into account.

NZALPA provided key information to the police and formed part of the Crown’s case.

Laser beams can reach up to 37,000 feet (11,277 metres) but most are targeted at the cockpits of aircraft taking off or landing at New Zealand’s airports. Last year there were some 112 reported laser attacks on aircraft and helicopters in New Zealand – and those are just those that are reported. Foreign registered aircraft report attacks to their own airworthiness authorities and these may not be included in these figures.

Mr Renwick adds: `Although legislation has recently been passed by Parliament in New Zealand controlling the importation and sale of high powered lasers, the targeting of aircraft with lasers is not a specific offence, as it is in many countries, as even small handheld ‘pointers’ can cause a serious distraction for pilots at a safety critical phase of flight such as take-off and landing.’


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