Dozens of pilots flying into or taking off from Calgary International Airport are being temporarily blinded by laser pointers annually, according to an airline spokesperson.
Robert Palmer with Calgary-based WestJet said while the matter tends to gain public attention after a spree of laser incidents, the problem occurs year-round.
“We do tend to see it more in the warmer months,” he added. “It’s stupid, it’s dangerous.”
Police HAWCS helicopters have also been targeted in the past, leading the service to plead with offenders to realize the danger they create for hundreds of passengers and flight staff.
“Some will even shine it at a plane and then shine it at us,” said Sgt. Michelle Cave, who has been with the HAWCS unit for four years. “It really startles you . . . some of these criminals are not the smartest.”
Palmer said WestJet has now partnered with a local ophthalmologist, who provides screening to any pilots within the airline that feel their vision may have been compromised by the laser. The initiative is believed to be the first of its kind.
Nationally, Transport Canada recorded a 25 per cent jump in laser incidents in 2011 compared to the year prior. A further 100 incidents have already been recorded nationwide this year.
— With files from Torstar News Services