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A dangerous trend that has to stop

Dear Editor,

When I sit in an aircraft, I have full confidence in the abilities of the pilot and the crew. I know that they have all the knowledge and tools required to ensure the safety of all passengers on board.

But what about external factors that could affect our flight? Some of them, like the weather, can be mitigated. Airport authorities can, for example, decide to cancel or delay a flight based on the weather forecast. But when an individual points a laser at a pilot during a flight, that’s another story. These situations are difficult to anticipate and can have serious consequences.

The number of incidents involving lasers being pointed at aircraft in Canada continues to increase. In 2015, 590 incidents were reported; this is a 68 per cent increase over the 2012 number. This alarming trend is continuing: 148 incidents were reported from January 1 to April 30, 2016. On average, this is 10 incidents a week, more than one laser strike per day.

When distracted by the laser light, pilots can be temporarily blinded, causing them to lose their concentration. This is a significant danger, especially since the majority of incidents happen when the crew is taking off or landing, the critical times of a flight.

The simple act of pointing a laser at an aircraft could cause a major accident and endanger the pilot, crew, passengers and people on the ground.

Before you decide to point a laser skyward, be aware that it is a federal offence. An individual found guilty under the Aeronautics Act is liable to a fine of up to $100,000 and/or up to five years in jail.

Transport Canada is collaborating closely with police services, other departments and the air transport industry to remind Canadians that this technology must be used carefully. I am also counting on you to spread the word. If you see an incident involving a laser, contact your local police service immediately.

On behalf of pilots and the thousands of Canadians who travel by air every day, I would very much appreciate it. Pointing a laser at an aircraft is neither a game nor a bright idea – it’s a criminal act. Let’s solve this problem today before it’s too late.

Marc Garneau

Minister of Transport

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