Air New Zealand Flight Targeted With A Laser On Approach

An Air New Zealand flight from Auckland to Whangarei suffered a laser attack during the final approach. The incident occurred on Friday night while the aircraft was at 3,500ft and preparing for landing. The aircraft landed safely a few minutes later and the police are trying to find the culprit.

Air New Zealand Dash 8
The incident occurred on a de Havilland Canada Dash 8 during the short journey on the North Island. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

Lasers

According to Stuff, the laser incident was reported on Air New Zealand flight NZ8226 on Friday, 16th April. The 30-minute journey was flown by a turboprop de Havilland Canada Dash 8 (registration ZK-NEO). However, things didn’t go to plan on the flight this Friday.

The aircraft departed Auckland over 35 minutes late, leaving at 19:31 local time instead of the scheduled 18:55. The flight quickly took off and reached its cruising altitude of 11,100 feet only for a few minutes before beginning its approach into Whangarei. However, this is where things started to go wrong.

Air NZ Dash 8 laser map
The 143km journey is one of the shorted in Air New Zealand’s network. Map and Data: FlightRadar24.com

At 3,500ft, around 19:53 local time, the pilots were struck with lasers and reported the same to air traffic control. However, the pilots were able to continue flying safely and did not request for a go-around or a longer approach. The flight continued towards Whangarei and landed safely at 19:59.

High risk

High-powered laser pointers can pose a great risk to pilots while flying, especially during takeoff or landing. Lasers can incapacitate pilots by distracting them or resulting in temporary blindness, risking the lives of everyone onboard. In some cases, the lasers can even leave pilots will permanent eye damage, as happened on a WestJet flight in 2019.

The threat of laser attacks on aircraft is not a new phenomenon. Culprits have been targeting airports or specific flights for a while now, hoping to disrupt operations. Considering how easy it is to carry out a laser attack, police have had difficulty tracking down those behind such attacks.

A350-1000 Cockpit
Lasers can cause all kinds of mayhem in the cockpit and risk the safety of the flight. Photo: Airbus

Explaining what do in a laser attack and why they are so difficult to deal with, New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association former president Tim Robinson said, as per Stuff’s report,

“The best pilots can do is look away and put their head down, and that’s obviously not what you want to be doing at a critical stage of flying…You can’t see these laser attacks coming, either. They completely take you by surprise. All you can do is look away and that is a big issue”

Investigating

The police received a report about the laser attack at 20:05 local time, shortly after it occurred. However, the exact location of the laser strike could be not be found and there are currently no lines of inquiry being looked into. For now, there seems to be little chance of catching those responsible.

Just last month, a Virgin Atlantic 787 departing London Heathrow was forced to turn back due to a sudden laser strike during departure. Sadly, it seems that laser attacks are only becoming more popular as a means to disrupt flight operations.

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