Miscreants with laser lights putting flights at PMB Airport in danger


Pietermaritzburg - Laser lights have recently become a danger for aircraft leaving and approaching the Pietermaritzburg Airport.

The incidents, occurring as recently as last week, have posed a great risk to aircraft attempting to land or take off from the airport.

Pietermaritzburg Airport manager Alvin Naidoo said there had been a “few incidents” of people in the Prestbury and Bisley areas shining laser lights into the sky.

He said last week the laser lights made an appearance four days in a row but stopped when the matter was reported to the police.

“When an aeroplane is approaching, or landing, the laser light distracts the pilot. Instead of the pilot being completely focused on the task ahead, the pilot’s eye moves off focus and results in a situation where the pilot may lose control of the aeroplane and crash.

“The shining of laser lights is a very dangerous practice and needs to be discontinued immediately,” said Naidoo.

South African Air Line Pilots’ Association (Alpa) general manager Sonia Ferreira said laser lights were a global threat. Ferreira sent an article approved by Alpa by Peter Derenski, that said that laser illumination of commercial aeroplanes was a growing threat with the number of incidents increasing. “A laser illumination incident begins quite suddenly as the flight deck is filled with a bright light,” said Derenski’s article.

“The glare makes it difficult to concentrate on the flight instruments and can remove the crew’s visual references with the runway environment, making pilots unsure of their position relative to the runway and the ground.”

He said reports of incidents came from America, Australia, Canada, England, Germany, and Ireland.

Although there are steps that pilots can take to minimise the effects of the laser, such as shielding their eyes or engaging autopilot, people are encouraged to not shine laser lights at any aeroplanes they see flying overhead.

• chelsea.pieterse@witness.co.za

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