A high-powered green laser light shone into the cockpit of the Northland rescue helicopter as the crew prepared to land after an emergency call-out has angered aviation officials.
The rescue crew had just transported a man complaining of shortness of breath from Kelly's Bay to Whangarei Hospital and were heading back to their Kensington Park base when they were struck by the green laser about 9.50pm last Sunday.
''We were just returning to base to refuel and get ready for any other job we might get called to and we were over the Rust Ave Western hills intersection,'' the pilot said.
''I saw a flash of light on the co-pilot's side of the aircraft. We flew back around to see where it had come from and they did it again on my side.'' Each blast of green light lasted about three seconds.
The pilot, with 17 years' helicopter flying experience including seven with the Northland Emergency Services Trust, was able to pinpoint the property where the beam was shone from.
Police were contacted as was the Civil Aviation Authority. Police yesterday confirmed they were following strong leads.
The pilot said the light was bouncing around the cockpit and was very distracting.
''If it was done at a crucial moment it could be extremely dangerous and have very serious consequences.''
Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Mike Richards said laser illumination of aircraft could result in a potentially hazardous situation during critical phases of flight. "We take the risks posed by lasers being shone into aircraft very seriously."
Under the Civil Aviation Act, people can be charged with causing unnecessary danger, with the maximum penalty being a term of imprisonment up to 12 months or fine of up to $10,000.
New Zealand has no specific legislation addressing laser misuse. The authority is engaged in a government project looking at regulations around lasers. The project is being led by the Ministry of Health.
Last November, two former Northland men were found guilty by a jury after they shone a laser at a police helicopter, filling the cockpit with bright green light.
Joshua O'Hare-Knight, 21, formerly of Paihia, and James Spiers, 19, formerly of Kerikeri, were found guilty in Auckland District Court of causing unnecessary danger to an aircraft.
The pair were at a house party in Mt Albert, Auckland, last May when they pointed a laser at the police helicopter as it flew over looking for a stolen car.
They are to be sentenced next month.
If you have any information about the laser strike on the rescue helicopter please contact Whangarei police on 09 4304500 or call anonymously on 0800 Crimestoppers or 0800 555 111.