It is Mike Smith’s job to make sure while he’s in the air every second counts.

So when the Ornge Air Ambulance Pilot had a laser pointed into his cockpit twice in one week, he knew something had to be done.

“It’s a surprise. All of a sudden you’re flinching, close to the ground, it’s dark… that’s what can cause problems,” he says.

Smith says a laser pointed at one of his former colleagues even caused long-term damage, forcing the pilot to wear sunglasses during the day and kept him grounded for several months.

In 2008, Transport Canada received reports of about 80 laser incidents. That number skyrocketed to 461 in 2013.

This year there have been 11 laser incidents reported in Ottawa alone. The most recent reported by a member of the Ottawa Flying Club on July 26.

A joint letter from several groups in the aviation industry has been sent to both the Canadian Transport Minister Lisa Raitt and Justice Minister Peter Mackay.

In the letter, the group writes:

“The intentional and often nefarious pointing of widely available powerful lasers against airborne flight crews is a genuine and growing safety and security concern.”

“The Canadian and the world’s airline industries maintain that wilfully or knowingly pointing a laser at an aircraft in flight should be prosecuted as an indictable offense.”

One of the signatures on the letter is from Dan Adamus, Canadian Board President of the Air Line Pilots Association.

“This is serious. You can do some serious damage and if you’re caught you could end up doing some jail time,” Adamus says if the government accepts their recommendation.

Marion De Caria decided to stand at a popular spot outside the Ottawa International Airport to watch her son, Michael, land his Air Transat plane for the first time in the capital.

She doesn’t understand why anyone would want to point a laser at the cockpits of a commercial plane carrying so many people.

“He’s my son. I wouldn’t want him to get hurt especially for something silly like that,” says De Caria.

Mike Smith agrees, with so much already to worry about, pilots shouldn’t be concerned with lasers on the ground. He says offenders should face the full consequences of the law.

With a report from CTV’s John Hua