Officers at the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment are working with Transport Canada to investigate interference from a laser pointed at an aircraft over the Cowichan Valley on July 28.
On that day, an air traffic controller reported that a pilot was lasered while flying at night at around 5,000 feet over the North Cowichan area.
The laser strike lasted approximately 20 seconds and appeared to be from a stationary location.
Officers from North Cowichan/Duncan did patrols of the zone where the beam apparently came from, but due to the large area and the lack of specific coordinates where the beam originated, were unable to establish who was involved.
This is an ongoing investigation and police continue to seek information.
There have been a number of reported incidents of laser interference on planes in the Cowichan area that were en route to Victoria and Nanaimo on July 26 and July 28 that are under investigation by Transport Canada.
The first incident happened when a Pacific Flying Club Cessna 152, northbound on its way to Nanaimo, “noticed green flashes reflecting off of the underside of its wings that lasted 10 seconds.”
The second, third and fourth reports came from airplane and helicopter pilots in the same area.
A Cessna pilot en route to Victoria noticed the underside of the plane’s wings “suddenly reflecting a flashing green light” and after confirming it didn’t come from conflicting air traffic, noted that the green laser beam was originating from a residential area in Saltair.
“The laser emitted a constant green beam that was moved around rapidly while aiming at the aircraft,” the report noted.
“The movement resembled the way a person would hold a hand-held laser while pointing it at an object in the distance.”
Soon after the Cessna pilot had made a report to the air traffic controller, a helicopter reported a “laser strike” around Chemainus and another pilot from the Pacific Flying Club reported seeing the laser as well.
Laser strikes on aircraft are a serious concern as they can cause temporary blinding of aircrew, according to RCMP Sgt. Chris Swain.
“Especially at night, laser strikes can lead to a possible loss of control of aircraft, posing a danger to people on the aircraft and the general public, so these incidents need to stop immediately,” he said.
Swain said the RCMP are looking to the public for more details about any incidents of laser interference of aircraft in the area.
He said anyone who has been the subject of a laser pointer while flying is encouraged to call police and provide details about when and where it happened.
People with information about who has been responsible for these occurrences are encouraged to contact the North Cowichan/Duncan RCM detachment.
According to Transport Canada, no one can possess a hand-held laser pointer over one milliwatt outside of a private dwelling within a 10-kilometre radius of an airport and certified heliports.
Aiming a laser at an aircraft can cause a major accident by distracting the pilot, creating glare that affects the pilot’s vision, and temporarily blinding the pilot.
More information is available from Transport Canada.
“Lasering any aircraft is considered intentionally interfering with the performance of flight crew to perform their duties, which is a criminal offence,” Swain said.
“It distracts a pilot and can interfere with their ability to safely operate and land the aircraft. Intentionally interfering with an aircraft and its crew in this manner is an offence punishable upon conviction by significant fines, incarceration, or both.”