Another passenger aircraft landing in Kelowna hit by laser | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Another passenger aircraft landing in Kelowna hit by laser

Image Credit: UNSPLASH/@nervum
August 27, 2021 - 6:30 AM

A potentially dangerous laser beam hit an Air Canada Jazz plane coming in for a landing in Kelowna from Vancouver earlier this week.

The incident ended well but could have been tragic.

“I don’t think people realize the danger it causes to the environment of the cockpit and then the danger it poses to the aircraft and to the people that are on that airplane,” Kelowna Airport manager Sam Samaddar told Thursday, Aug. 26.

“It creates a very disorientating environment for the pilot because they’re trying to follow the guidance of their instruments and everything else. As soon as this thing hits into the cockpit it’s like a bright light coming into the cockpit. It destroys their night vision in the cockpit environment.”

If it hits a pilot directly in the eye it can cause permanent damage, even blindness.

These are not the little laser pointers that are used in presentations but a laser with more than one milliwatt of power, which are prohibited from being imported into Canada or sold.

READ MORE: Kelowna Airport’s expansion plans on hold due to pandemic

Samaddar described these larger, hand-held lasers as being similar to a Star Wars lightsaber than can project a beam 1,000 feet or more into the air.

They can even be used to start fires.

If they’re directed at an aircraft within 10 kilometres of an airport the perpetrator can be fined up to $100,000 or sentenced to up to five years in jail or both, Samaddar said.

The latest incident happened Monday evening as the flight was approaching the airport over Kelowna General Hospital. The pilots could see that it was fired from a location about two blocks north of the Coast Capri Hotel but couldn’t pinpoint it more precisely.

READ MORE: Incoming Kelowna aircraft hit by laser

This is the fourth or fifth such incident in Kelowna this year, Samaddar said. Because of the COVID pandemic, the number of flights are down significantly this year from peak years.

“It’s more common than we would like to see,” he said. “Sometimes I don’t think people are actually thinking what they’re doing when they do that. They see an airplane and they say: ‘I’ll point this laser in the sky’ without realizing the potential harm it could cause.”

It’s worrying enough that the airport has set up a reporting protocol to inform the RCMP of such incidents. Anyone with information on what happened Monday night can call the Kelowna RCMP at 250-762-3300.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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