The New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association (NZALPA) is calling for a total ban on high-powered laser pointers after recent laser attacks which pilots described as "the most terrifying thing they've ever gone through".
The call for prohibition follows two recent reported incidences of flight crew and passenger lives being put in danger through reckless use of the devices.
On April 12 an Air New Zealand plane was hit by a laser strike near Kerikeri Airport at about 6.10am, just after taking off.
Three days later there was a laser attack on a Mount Cook Airline plane flying over the Canterbury town of Rolleston.
NZALPA President Tim Robinson said on average, aircraft approaching and departing New Zealand airports experience laser attacks every month.
"I've talked with pilots who have experienced similar laser strikes when trying to land a plane, often with many passengers and crew on board. They describe the confusion, temporary blindness and the resulting headaches as one of the most terrifying things they've ever gone through," he said.
Robinson said laser strikes are an issue that other countries have dealt with through complete prohibition of possession of these devices.
"We continue to press Parliament and regulators for laser attacks to be taken seriously – raising their status as an offence equivalent to such acts as highjacking and bomb threats, collectively known as 'Acts of illegal interference'," he said.
"What makes it worse is that it is likely the perpetrators will never be found. This is a constant source of frustration for ourselves and law enforcement agencies."
In New Zealand perpetrators can be prosecuted under the Summary Offences (possession of high-power laser pointers), Crimes Act 1961 (endangering transport) and the Civil Aviation Act 1990.
Under the Summary Offences Act sentences can include up to three months in prison or a fine of up to $2000.
Under the most punitive of the three acts, the Crimes Act, a perpetrator could face up to 14 years in jail.
"Of course, for this to be possible, the laser pointer and the person who used it needs to be actually found – often hiding under the cover of darkness and having already fled the scene," Robinson said.
"How many times do we have to remind those in power that lasers are not toys and pilots and air traffic controllers have been very concerned that it would only be a matter of time before a serious accident would result from such dangerous and irresponsible use?"