• Civil Aviation Authority investigates Napier laser attack

Civil Aviation Authority investigates Napier laser attack

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is yet to determine a course of action following a prolonged laser strike over Napier on Friday. 

David Harrison, Deputy Chief Executive, Aviation Safety, said they have received a report of the "laser attack" and are talking with the pilot to gather more information.

"This will help us determine the best way to handle this,” David Harrison, Deputy Chief Executive, Aviation Safety, said. 

Terry Longley Jr, a commercial pilot and Terry Longley & Son Funeral Director, and his co-pilot were 2000ft above Marine Parade when blue light flooded their plane's cockpit, and they were hit by a "deliberate and targeted" laser strike. He estimated it lasted about 12 minutes. 

Fortunately, they weren't in a critical phase of flying, so it didn't impact the safety of the flight. But he recalls thinking how "idiotic" the person was being and wanted to capture the incident on his phone "to hopefully try stop them in the future". 

Harrison said last year the Civil Aviation Authority received 143 reports of laser attack incidents. So far this year there have been 161 laser strikes reported nationwide for 2021 to date, with 12 of those reports recorded around Hawke’s Bay (Napier/Hastings).

“Pointing a laser at a plane could cause temporary blindness and affect the pilot's ability to control the plane and consequentially puts lives at risk, both in the air on the ground below,” he said.

“We always prefer to take an educative approach with the public on the use of high powered lasers – see our website laser pointer safety - however, if people continue to do the wrong thing and put lives at risk, we won’t hesitate to take whatever action is applicable under the law,” Harrison said.

There are two possible offences that this incident could be processed under.

Section 13B (1) of the Summary Offences Act 1981 (possession of high powered laser pointers) says Every person is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 months or a fine not exceeding $2,000 who, in any public place, without reasonable excuse, has any high-power laser pointer in his or her possession.

Part 44(1)(b) of the Civil Aviation Act 1990 (Dangerous activity involving aircraft, aeronautical product, or aviation related service) which could apply for someone who pointed a high powered laser at an aircraft in flight.

Longley has been flying for about 16 years and says this is the second or third time he has had a laser pointed at his aircraft while flying over Hawke's Bay at night.

"Not all the time but it does come up and in different areas around Hawke's Bay. And I know a lot of other pilots that I trained with and fly now still report lasers all the time."