Air New Zealand flight targeted by laser pointer in Whangārei

An expert told Newshub laser pointers put lives at risk.
An expert told Newshub laser pointers put lives at risk. Photo credit: Newshub (file)

An Air New Zealand flight traveling from Auckland to Whangārei was targeted by a laser pointer as it was preparing to land on Friday night.

NZ8226, a Dash 8 aircraft, was flying above the Whangārei Heads area when the incident happened.

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

"Air New Zealand flight NZ8226 from Auckland to Whangārei last evening was subject to a laser strike while flying at 3,500 feet on approach to Whangārei. The pilot followed the standard process and alerted Air Traffic Control and the aircraft landed without incident in Whangārei around 8.20pm.

"Safety is paramount for Air New Zealand. Laser strikes are potentially dangerous and we support the authorities in taking action when they occur," Captain Morgan said.

Police received a report of a laser strike incident just after 8pm, however the exact location of the laser was unable to be found, and at this stage there are no leads on who was responsible.

Offenders can face up to three years in jail or a fine of $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 2016, New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association director Tim Robinson said the dangers of lasers being pointed at aircraft should not be underestimated.

"It's like someone shining a torch straight in your eye. The laser hits the flight deck windows, it diffuses, and depending on the colour of the laser you've got this massive green or red light throughout the flight deck.

"It is incredibly confusing for the pilots and it can put them off the safe operation of the aircraft."

Robinson said if pilots are distracted enough, people could die because take-off and landing are the most common times for lasers to hit the cockpit.