The effects of laser attacks on pilots

Pointing a laser at an aircraft can affect a pilot’s ability to safely control the plane or helicopter – especially during critical phases of flight like take-off and landing. This is particularly dangerous for small aircraft and helicopters, but poses a real risk to large aircraft too.

Although the beam from a laser might appear as a little dot of light for the user, when it reaches the aircraft cockpit in the distance it becomes a large, distracting and damaging illumination.

Laser attacks can leave pilots with flash blindness, where their vision is affected even after the laser is no longer pointing in their direction – sometimes these effects can take days to pass.

Even when shone from hundreds of metres, or even kilometres away, high-power laser beans pointed at an aircraft can still cause a serious aviation safety risk.

Laser attacks put people’s lives at risk both in the air and on the ground – it’s never okay to attack people with lasers, especially when they’re flying a plane or helicopter.



Shining lasers indoors


Shining lasers at aircraft


Shining lasers at presentations


Shining lasers at air traffic control tower


Running a laser or light show*


Shining lasers in eyes

* If you're planning to run a laser or light show, please notify the CAA.

Why this is such an important issue for New Zealand

The rate of laser attacks on New Zealand aircraft has been increasing, despite restrictions on high-power laser pointers since 2014.

New Zealand aviation laser attacks 2007-2020

Aviation laser attacks a serious safety risk

Aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft is a serious safety risk for pilots, passengers, and people on the ground below. These laser attacks are illegal and can lead to large fines or even jail time when attackers are caught.

All reports of laser attacks are treated seriously by the Civil Aviation Authority and police. If you witness a laser attack in progress or think you are seeing unsafe laser use, call 111 immediately and ask for the police.

Provide the operator as many identifiable details as possible, such as the location or the name or a description of the person using the laser pointer.

Using, owning or supplying high-power lasers can only be done with consent from the Director-General of Health at Ministry of Health(external link).