An aircraft from 442 Squadron on its way to a rescue operation west of Vancouver Island was hit by a laser beam on Saturday, officials say.
Lt-Cmdr. Michael Feltovic, the operations officer at 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron at 19 Wing Comox, said the CC-115 Buffalo aircraft was gaining elevation to go to the rescue at around 9:36 PT when the crew saw a green laser flash in the cockpit at least two times.
“A green laser was kind of directed up near the aircraft,” Feltovic said.
He said when is a laser goes into the cockpit, there is typically quite a bit of glare as the laser bounces across reflective services.
“I believe the aircraft commander and the navigator since they had the laser directed into their eye, they both had to get checked out by an ophthalmologist at our medical clinic the following day,” Feltovic said.
The crew reported the laser to the air traffic control tower who alerted RCMP.
“They were climbing out from the airport to get the altitude to cross the island to go support the medevac,” Feltovic said. “They weren’t really in a critical phase of flight had the time but had they been taking off or landing and someone shone a laser into the cockpit, then that could have certainly raised a major safety incident there.”
According to Transport Canada, a laser can cause an aircraft accident by distracting the pilot, creating a glare that affects the pilot’s vision and temporarily blinding the pilot. Pointing a laser at an aircraft is illegal and offenders can be charged.
Under the federal Aeronautics Act, anyone who flashes lasers at an aircraft can face up to $100,000 in fines, five years in prison or both.
Comox Valley RCMP Const. Rob Gardner said they went out to the area on Highway 19 near the Mount Washington turnoff, but they were unable to find the source of the laser.
Both the CH-149 Cormorant and the CC-115 Buffalo helicopter had been tasked by Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) Victoria for the Saturday night medevac call involving an injured crew member from a bulk carrier located 550 kilometres (300 nautical miles) west of the island. Feltovic, who was in the CH-149 Cormorant helicopter, said the crew member had a broken leg and was hoisted up by the helicopter out at sea. The helicopter took the patient back to 19 Wing Comox.
The Buffalo aircraft provided top-cover for the Cormorant.