Laser Shone On Plane


Someone directed a laser light on a small aircraft as it flew over Hamilton last night and policve are taking the matter seriously.

Senior Sergeant Kevin Anderson said a 111 call was made to the Northern Communications Centre about 8.35pm by the pilot of an aircraft attempting to land the plane at the City’s airport.

“The pilot said the green laser appeared to come from the south end of either Victoria or Anglesea Sts and the aircraft had been painted by the laser a number of times on its approach.

“Obviously the stakes these offenders are playing with are extremely high, given that distracting a pilot can have very tragic circumstances we need to find who was responsible before they offend again.”

Last December a pilot reported being distracted by a green laser as she flew over the City’s eastern suburbs, earlier in the same week motorists had reported a similar laser being directed at drivers in the vicinity of Mill St and the City’s stadium.”

Mr Anderson said green lasers have a maximum power rating of 5 milliwatt and are deemed to be more hazardous that red laser pointers commonly encountered in classrooms and conferences.

These devices emit light at a wavelength of 532 nanometres and are perceived by the human eye as green.

The eye’s maximum sensitivity to visible light is around this wavelength and the eye will interpret a green laser light as being up to 30 times brighter than a red laser of the same power.

“Direct eye exposure to one of these laser beams can result in momentary ‘flash blindness’
causing distraction to aircrews or drivers of motor vehicles on the ground.

Anyone discovered interfering with an aircraft in flight by using a laser faces stiff penalties
with a person found guilty of an offence under Section 44 of the Civil Aviation Act facing a maximum of 12 months imprisonment or a fine not exceeding $10,000.

Lasers have been easily able to be bought on Trade me.




  1. Matt says:

    There’re some scary videos on YouTube of the effect of a green laser “painting” the cockpit of an aircraft. One I saw was from a low-flying police helicopter, which could’ve been very serious given that it was over a suburb. I know that Eagle’s been painted a few times.
    It’s pretty much like the entire cockpit being bathed in a very bright, green light, which is bad if you’re on final approach because you get blinded. I hope they catch these muppets.

  2. Scott says:

    “Mr Anderson said green lasers have a maximum power rating of 5 milliwatts”

    Mr Anderson is incorrect. I have a 50mW laser on my desk. I understand it is completed legal in NZ. (I definitely do not point it at people)

    If you look on trademe you can buy 200+ mW “pointers” that can pop bloons etc. It is really about time there was some regulation here about what can be sold as a pointer.

  3. Matt says:

    Scott, how long ago did you get it?
    And I suspect those ones on TM aren’t actually legal. They’re almost certainly restricted devices, especially if they can pop a balloon. If they can do that, they could rupture an eyeball pretty easily too.

  4. Aaron says:

    I used to sell these (5-150mw) on trademe and yes they are legal, banned in oz but legal here, i was contacted by the national radiation lab and had an interesting email exchange with one of the guys there. After the interchange i printed out a bunch of information sheets and double advised people to be aware of not only the stupidity of shining at people/animals/planes etc but also to be aware of the dangers of backscattered ir leakage from the laser (greens being basiclaly a ir diode being frequency ‘pumped’ to change the wavelength).

    Banning things never works, education nearly always does and then mopping up the people who ignore this with hefty fines and or a week in jail.

    Restriction sometimes works (airguns etc) but there are always stories of kids getting hold of brothers airgun and taking out an eye.

    High power greens have many legit uses (one that comes to mind immediately is astronomy (you need at least 100mw for people more than a foot away to be able to see the beam)).

    A friend of mine has a 3 watt blue laser ‘pointer’ which is used responsibly (doing crazy stuff but not stupid and yes there is always a difference).

    The trouble with knee jerk reactions such as “BAN THEM ALL!!!” is they don’t teach the users that already have these lasers anything. should we ban rare earth magnets due to stories like ?

    Banning things just makes it easier for parents to continue to not bring up their kids in a way that lets them integrate properly with the rest of society, which still has a small number of people with common sense in it.

  5. Matt says:

    Aaron, restricted and banned aren’t the same thing. For example, you cannot buy ammunition if you don’t have a firearms licence. Most petrol stations won’t sell diesel unless it’s going into a vehicle’s tank. I cannot waltz into a pharmacy and buy opioids over the counter. Restricted, not banned. Same can be used to restrict sale of potential-harm devices such as high-power (for values of “high” that equate to “can cause disfigurement or death”) lasers, and I was under the impression that their sale is restricted beyond a certain output level to those with legitimate (research, industrial, etc) need for them.

  6. Aaron says:

    No restrictions on sale in NZ. The PDF i linked to mentions guidelines rather than rules.

    I wasn’t insinuating you wanted them banned, but there seems to be a general public support for having the devices banned because most people just don’t “get it”.

    I fooled around with fireworks when i was a kid and still have both eyes. Exercising a little common sense saw to that, however due to a bunch of idiots screaming “BAN THEM” i won’t have a chance to show my children the fun that can be had with buzzy bees and rockets.

    As far as i know, lasers have never caused a plane to crash (unless the military was painting it as targetting for a missile) yet there is a very good chance that they will be banned just because of what could potentially happen.

    Maybe we should ban cars and alcohol too as they are proven killers….

  7. Matt says:

    There was more to banning skyrockets than just personal injury. Many millions of dollars of fire damage were caused because of their unpredictability, and expecting people to be sensible proved to be unsatisfactory. At some point, someone has to say that insurance-holders won’t continue to pay the costs of “fun” that requires large-scale attendance by the Fire Service.
    Similarly, thank the sadistic little scunge-bags who used to use crackers to torture animals, doing things such as putting them into dogs’ ears, for their disappearance.

    If a full-scale ban happens, it’ll be because people have demonstrated, repeatedly and in large numbers, that they’re incapable of being responsible, and do wilfull damage to the property of others into the bargain.

  8. travis says:

    this has happened to me before. When it hits you its very distracting as it reflects off anything and everything. As well as that you lose your night vision, which is important if you are trying to navigate visually at night

  9. anthony says:

    I have been blinded by the green laser before, i couldn’t see at all for a full minute until i could see, even then it was extremely painful on the eyes for over an hour.

  10. Aaron says:

    Now those same sadistic little scum bags are using all manner of things to torture animals, scum bags will be scum bags. But i draw the line at being forced to comply with a law squarely aimed at such scum bags and them only.

    Ever been in a car with oncoming traffic that either has the headlights up to high or refuses to dip them? What does common sense (and the road code) suggest? You simply look away.

    In a plane you have instrumentation you can refer to until final approach and most airports are lit up much brighter than a 2+km away green laser.

    Add the fact that by the time the beam has gone a kilometre the beam has decolumnated significantly. I once painted a house about 400 metres away and rang the owner and asked him to tell me how big the green dot on the side of his house was…..About 2 feet at that range thus the intensity is reduced hugely. Sure getting hit at point blank with a laser is gonna screw your vision up due to the sheer concentration of visible light in a small spot but its more of an annoyance at longer range.

    Don’t get me wrong i’m not saying that it is ok to do crazy stuff like this but its yet another case of something very small being made into something very big and scary, Paul Henry anyone?

    The other issue we have by banning stuff like this is it will stifle innovation and inventiveness in our young (admittedly a small proportion). A number of scientists started off in science by usually blowing stuff up when they were kids. Probably so did a number of pyschopaths and army boys but they would have turned out like that anyway.

    People will just bring them in from one of several chinese dropship companies anyway if trademe bans their sale where they get declared as “LED flashlights”.

  11. travis says:


    doesn’t just happen on approach to an airport. I was flying around the city at night operating under VFR close to the CBD. I am required to maintain separation from obstacles and am not protected by air traffic control. The laser is disorientating, it fills the cabin and nullifies your night vision. Being quite close to the Sky Tower makes this a dangerous combo

  12. Andrew T says:

    These should be banned and manslaughter penalties brought in for those who shine them.
    Remember that fatal accident at onehunga near the new train station the day it opened.. and the guys were running from police because they had been seen pointing lasers on motorway traffic.
    It’s very dangerous especially for a plane full of people. This was a small plane. Imagine what could happen with jet coming into land low over houses.

  13. Aaron says:

    There have been no crashes due to laser stupidity ever (unless counting us military). There have been incidents all over the world in increasing numbers yet no-one has bought down an aircraft. You’d tend to think if they were at all effective then Al Ciada would be painting aircraft around built up airports all over the world to cause a bit of damage or perhaps screwing with fighter pilots in Afghanistan or Iraq.

    @ Travis : I fly too (well when funds have allowed) and the seat of the pants is a remarkable compass if you needed to close your eyes for any length of time and any decent pilot would instinctively pitch away from an area with lots of obstacles (and you should be over 500ft unless you have special clearances). I still agree that idiots should be hunted down and killed but this is not a candidate for banning lasers outright. Some people still have an ounce plus of common sense in them. Also keep in mind that painting the cabin windows of an aircraft from any distance is incredibly difficult due to small movements on the pointer equaling large movements where the beam hits so when you were lasered you were probably wondering what that funky green light was and focused on it until it hit the bingo point and temporarily flash blinded you. Simply not looking into the beam would have averted any flash blindness and made it a more minor inconvenience.

    @ Andrew T : It’s simply not dangerous as far as the statistics read (read above link). The fatal crash you are speaking about was due to the driver of a car trying to get away from the police who were chasing with bright flashing lights designed to stun their prey. You know what i say to that? “BAN THE POLICE!!!!!!” they have killed infinitely more people than have died in lasered aircraft.

    Manslaughter lol perhaps attempted manslaughter but only if a jury/prosecutor can prove that they shined it to try and kill someone. Just remember you can’t have slaughter without laughter.

    Don’t get me wrong, anyone who acts like a dick with a laser and endangers innocent people deserves to be chased by the police until dead then chased some more but it shouldn’t affect what i do with a clear sky and common sense.

  14. Litle B says:

    I bort a laser n have lotz of fun with it.
    no plane is gonna crash.

  15. AWB says:

    It’s mainly harmless fun.
    I can’t understand why the police get so hysterical about such things. Haven’t they more “important” menances to worry about like boy racers! LOL
    And I see Labour has issued a damning comment.
    Haven’t they got more important things to discuss or are they just into the Winston Peters type xenophobia desperate stakes to get elected now. Tragic. Nanny state is back.

  16. Matt says:

    AWB, I suspect that pilots whose aircraft have been laser painted would disagree with your “harmless fun” comment. See comments above, for example, from someone who’s been through it.

  17. karl says:

    Banning / restricting never works? Yeez, I think that’s a strange perception of the world. If banning / restricting something dangerous reduces the availability / banned use by 90%, then that’s still 90% less danger. Bans don’t need to be 100% effective to reduce danger markedly.

    And I see little need for such powerful lasers anyway. For those who have some legitimate use, a relatively uncomplicated permit system would be fine. Just prevent the bored, stupid guy with a few dollars too many from buying one.

  18. Aaron says:

    OK, so shall we ban the sale of CDR/W and BLURAY drives too? Casio green power projectors? A ban would likely start with a ban on importation, then on sale. I doubt there would be any amnesty or anything of the kind. So we still have idiots with lasers and all of a sudden there is a uh grey market where the prices go up, people generally want something more when they are told they can’t have it so a bunch of people get a bit richer and some happy punters get hold of some black market laser pointery…..

    Do crims have firearms licenses for their guns?

    Class legitimate use. Astronomy, lab use only?

    When a bunch of guys in white lab coats were conducting boring experiments with lasers, someone else with an imagination thought “what if i got a mirror on a motor and bounced the beam off while varying the speed of the motor?”

    This is what hobbyists do and regardless of whether people like karl regard that as legitimate use or not, it makes things happen on this planet, good things, while a bunch of whiners feel content with banning good things being abused by idiots that don’t have to (thanks to an entirely stupid legal system) account for their actions.

    But go ahead ban them if it makes you feel better but just wait until the idiots start getting hold of 5+watt IR lasers and run around robbing people after first blinding them instantly and invisibly. Or wait for them to get hold of the watt blues from a casio projector and perform eye surgery of not an entirely good type on people from 400 metres away or even the 200mw reds that can be harvested from any pc dvd drive. Oh yes ban the pus underpowered greens.

    And i will chuckle to myself briefly before i return to banging my head against an already bloody brick wall……

  19. Scott says:

    Wow, relax. I just would rather 5mW + lasers are not allowed to be sold as pointers and require a child proof lockout.

    Im not too worried about people who will modify a dvd laser. generally they are smart enough not to hurt others with it.


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