Aviation authorities have issued a warning after an airline passenger captured alarming footage of a laser pointed at the plane he was on earlier this week. The video shows a bright green beam of light aimed directly at the aircraft flying in the night sky over Melbourne.
"Was travelling back last night and noticed someone shooting laser at our flight. Just wondering if this is illegal in Australia?" the traveller asked online.
A Victoria Police spokesperson confirmed to Yahoo News that pointing a laser at an aircraft is indeed a crime and those caught doing so can be charged with interfering with a crew member in an aircraft, reckless conduct endangering life, and possessing a prohibited weapon.
A spokesperson for Australia's Civil Aviation and Safety Authority (CASA) explained to Yahoo News why the practice can be extremely dangerous. "Pointing a laser at an aircraft poses a serious threat that can incapacitate pilots, putting passengers at risk," the spokesperson said. "Any passengers witnessing a laser should contact the cabin crew."
According to CASA's laser safety guidelines, "Lasers can produce a beam of light of such intensity that permanent damage to human tissue, in particular the retina of the eye, can be caused instantaneously, even at distances of over 10km. At lower intensities, laser beams can seriously affect visual performance without causing physical damage to the eyes."
Aussie man sentenced over laser incident
The warning comes just days after Adelaide man Shannon Glomb narrowly avoided jail for shining a high-powered laser at a police helicopter in December 2022. The 36-year-old purchased the device on eBay to play with his cat, but ended up shining it at the helicopter while drunk.
Appearing in Adelaide Magistrates Court on Tuesday for sentencing, Mr Glomb's 12-month jail term and six-month non-parole period were suspended on condition of a two-year, $1000 good behaviour bond, reports The Advertiser. The offence carries a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment in South Australia.
An act of 'lethal stupidity'
"The helicopter did not crash but, seriously, that's sheer luck," Magistrate Karim Soetratma told Mr Glomb, admonishing him for endangering the lives of the four occupants of the helicopter and people in the suburb of Hillbank, below where it was flying at the time of the incident.
"Your offence, with the potentially catastrophic effect it could have had on many people's lives, is to be characterised as an offence of potentially lethal stupidity," Mr Soetratma said.
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.