At Least Five Recent Incidents Reported
Canadian officials say they're not turning a blind eye to the
disturbing increase in the number of laser beams being flashed on
aircraft operating around Toronto's Lester B. Pearson International
The Toronto Star reports at least five pilots have complained
recently to Transport Canada, saying someone on the ground shone a
laser beam into the cockpits of their planes as they approached to
land at the airport. Agency spokesperson Deborah Baxter said there
have been 11 incidents reported in Ontario since March 2007, but
adds many more likely went unreported.
Flights that came under attack recently include a cargo aircraft
and charter plane on February 21, and an Air Canada Jazz regional
jet January 7. Police were sent out to investigate each report, but
so far nothing has come of it. A teenager was apprehended in
connection with the attacks, but wasn't charged.
High-energy light emitting from laser pointers can cause
temporary flash blindness, and may lead to permanent vision
Pilots say they can't fathom why someone would deliberately
attempt to blind a pilot during the crucial landing phase,
especially over a busy city like Toronto.
"The threat (from a laser pointer) is probably greatest when
that airplane is a quarter to a half-mile from the threshold of the
runway -- when you're in the final 10 to 12 seconds prior to
touchdown," said Capt. Stephen Guetta, a 20-year Air Canada pilot.
"That's the highest risk, when you're moving from your instruments
to looking outside. Trying to get your depth of perception. So you
can imagine the danger of blinding a pilot at that point ... The
pilot has very little time to react."
Officials appear to suspect the
attacks are the result of miscreants, and not any kind of
deliberate, organized terror campaign. Steve Lott, spokesman for
the Montreal-based International Air Transport Association,
suggests the lasers being shone at airplanes are more powerful than
the typical laser pointer used in corporate presentations.
More likely, he adds, the perpetrators are using high-powered
lasers typically used by astronomers... and, well, snipers.
"The most crucial parts of any flight are the takeoff and
landing," Lott said. "This is certainly not a game, whether it's
kids playing a game or anything else."