TORONTO - A Durham Region resident accused of endangering a police helicopter
crew by flashing them with a hand-held laser device faces prison and a fine
of up to $100,000 under the federal Aeronautics Act.
Durham Regional Police spokesman Dave Selby said Tuesday a chopper team
flying over Ajax had to take evasive action after being hit with an "intense
green light" about 365 metres above the ground Saturday evening.
They were assisting officers in cruisers, who were searching for a suspected
Pilots across North America — including at busy Pearson International
Airport — have been plagued by laser pranksters who either don't know or
don't care that they could cause a crash if the pilot's eyes became damaged,
or if they become disoriented. Uncontrollable sneezing is a common reaction.
From 2005 to 2008, Transport Canada reported 33 incidents of pilots seeing
"a light" while flying – several times being temporarily blinded as aircraft
were about to land on runways. In addition to the GTA, police in
Saskatchewan, Alberta and a U.S. department of homeland security helicopter
in British Columbia were targeted during that period.
South of the border, the U.S. Federal Aircraft Administration reported 900
incidents of lasers shot at aircraft.
In May, 2008, York Regional Police called for a ban on high-powered laser
pointers after two of their chopper pilots were hit by blinding lights while
In the most recent incident, officers spotted the green light coming from
among a group of people standing behind an Ajax home, Selby said.
Patrol officers drove there, seized a hand-held laser and arrested a man.
Brendon Schoenwald, 19, of Hills Rd., Ajax, is charged with endangering
life, obstructing police, being a common nuisance, and committing mischief
to public property.
Schoenwald is also charged, under the Canadian Aviation Regulations, with
projecting a directed bright light source at an aircraft, contrary to the
Aeronautics Act under dangerous behaviour regulations.
In a police statement, Staff-Sgt. Alan Mack, who heads the Durham air
support unit, warned that shining laser beams from small hand-held devices
"creates potential hazards for aircraft operations.
"When directed into the cockpit, laser lights can create temporary blindness
that may affect the pilot’s ability to operate the aircraft safely," Mack
said. “We take incidents of this nature very seriously.”
Anyone convicted under the Aeronautics Act of aiming a laser into an
aircraft's cockpit faces a fine of up to $100,000 and/or five years in
prison, according to Transport Canada's website.