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NZ: Number of laser strikes on aircraft decreases, but may be due to flights decreasing

Information from the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand shows the number of reported laser illuminations of aircraft dropped 41% in 2020, from 237 incidents in 2019 to 140 in 2020.

The March 2021 New Zealand data has been updated on the Laser/aircraft illumination statistics page. Scroll down to the "New Zealand" section. Also updated is the section comparing five countries including New Zealand.

The information was in a March 15 2021 email from CAA-NZ to LaserPointerSafety.com. The email noted that "Unfortunately our 2020 numbers were low primarily because our aircraft movements dropped so much due to Covid-19."

To look into this further, LaserPointerSafety.com estimated that in 2020 there were 273,000 airport movements (defined as a takeoff, landing or missed approach handled by Airways New Zealand). This compares with 1,023,000 movements in 2019 and a similar number in 2018.

Using this metric, in 2020 there were 256 laser illuminations per 1 million movements. This would be actually be a significant increase from the 2019 figure of 232 laser illuminations per 1 million movements.

Such a comparison may not be fully valid, however. The number of movements probably does not include flights by police and rescue aircraft. Because these are disproportionately targeted by laser perpetrators, a complete analysis would need to include such flights. It is not known if data are available.

Data from a March 15 2021 email from CAA-NZ. Thanks to Jenny Knowlsey for this data. Additional data on New Zealand aircraft movements is listed on the Laser/aircraft illumination statistics page under the "illuminations per 1 million flights" chart. Note that although "airport movements" are discussed above, on the statistics page this has been converted to "flights" by dividing the movements in half. This was done because "flights" is more understandable to the general public than "airport movements."