Pilot forced to divert landing at YLW after being hit with laser strike

Laser strike diverts plane

UPDATE: 3:15 p.m.

Kelowna airport director Sam Samaddar has confirmed two separate recent incidents where lasers were pointed at incoming aircraft.

"One was on March 5. A single commercial aircraft on approach into the airport. There were two strikes onto that airplane," said Samaddar.

"Then two days later on [March 7] we had another laser strike on an aircraft."

Samaddar said one of the outbound flights was cancelled when the pilot was unable to continue flying.

In terms of safety, Samaddar says the practice of pointing a laser at an aircraft is a "very, very dumb idea."

"You've got the issue of the distraction for the flight crew who are at the critical phase of flying but, on top of that, you could end up blinding the pilot.

"When you are approaching at the critical phase of flight, you have the safety of the crew but also the safety of the passengers put in jeopardy.

"The fact someone would even consider that... especially when you are at your most vulnerable is just unconscionable."

A Vernon man was arrested and faced criminal charges after he was caught using a laser pointer on an aircraft at YLW in 2021.

ORIGINAL: 1:20 p.m.

Kelowna RCMP are investigating after a flight into Kelowna International Airport had to be diverted after the pilot was unable to land due to the effects of a laser strike.

"Kelowna RCMP is reminding the public to never aim a laser at or near any aircraft or into airspace. Recently, airlines flying in and out of YLW in Kelowna have reported someone pointing a laser at the aircraft causing unnecessary delays or issues for pilots, crews and passengers," said RCMP spokesperson Const. Mike Della-Paolera.

According to statistics from Transport Canada, there were 1,965 laser attacks reported in Canada between January 2015 and the end of December 2019.

Hand-held laser devices currently on the market are incredibly powerful, able to generate power up to five-watts, or 5,000 times the power of keychain laser pointers. Lasers can distract the pilot by creating glare that affects vision and even temporarily blinding the pilot.

“Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a criminal offence. Under the Aeronautics Act, people convicted of pointing a laser at an aircraft could face up to $100,000 in fines and/or five years in prison,” said Della-Paolera. “Actions like this could possibly cause a catastrophic event or unnecessary harm to someone.”

Kelowna RCMP are asking for the public's help to identify the person or persons responsible for the laser activity and they remind the general public that flying a drone within five kilometres of an airport is extremely dangerous and illegal.

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