Air New Zealand flight from Auckland targeted by laser pointer at Whangarei

A domestic Air New Zealand flight was targeted by a laser pointer as it came in to land at Whangārei last night.

Flight NZ8226, a Dash 8-300 aircraft, was on the short flight from Auckland when the dangerous incident happened in the Whangārei Heads area.

Air NZ’s chief operational integrity and safety officer Captain David Morgan confirmed the incident.

“Air New Zealand flight NZ8226 from Auckland to Whangārei last evening was subject to a laser strike while flying at 3500 feet on approach to Whangārei,” Morgan said.

“The pilot followed the standard process and alerted Air Traffic Control and the aircraft landed without incident in Whangārei around 8.20pm.”

He added: “Safety is paramount for Air New Zealand. Laser strikes are potentially dangerous and we support the authorities in taking action when they occur.”

Police confirmed that they received a report of a laser strike at 8.05pm last night.

But the exact location of the laser was “unable to be pinpointed” and there are no lines of inquiry.

High-powered laser attacks can distract or in extreme cases potentially blind crew, and they are increasing.

Offenders face up to three years in prison or a fine up to $2000 if convicted of possession of a high-powered laser or up to 14 years in jail if convicted under the Crimes Act for endangering transport.

In 2019, New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association (NZALPA) president Tim Robinson said it was only a “matter of time” until lasers cause a serious plane crash.

“There is potential for significant accidents and crashes if they continue to be used, especially in airports,” he said at the time.

“They [pilots] describe the confusion, temporary blindness and the resulting headaches as one of the most terrifying things they’ve ever gone through.”

Between 2014 and 2018, a total of 717 laser incidents were reported to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Incidents in 2018 (228) were up 33 per cent on 2017 (171) and up 130 per cent since 2014 when 99 incidents were reported.

The hot spots were in Auckland (46), Christchurch (26), Hamilton (40), and Gisborne (32).

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