Mounties are investigating after three aircraft flying over Metro Vancouver were targeted by blinding lasers Monday night including planes belonging to Air Canada and WestJet, and CTV’s news helicopter, Chopper 9.

RCMP Sgt. Cam Kowalski said pilots are susceptible to immediate damage when powerful lasers shot from the ground hit pilots’ vision.

“Some of the lasers are so powerful that if you take a direct hit in the retina it will cause instant damage and it’s irreparable,” he said.

Kowalski said targeting aircrafts with lasers is illegal and are treated like other serious crimes.

“It would [not be] dissimilar to an armed robbery or a break-and-enter in progress, because that’s the seriousness [with which] we take these incidents,” he said.

Lasers are not illegal to buy in Canada and even extremely powerful green lasers can be purchased online. According to Kowalski, many out-of-country suppliers ship them to Canada as flashlights to sidestep shipping regulations.

Kowalski said there are between 30 to 40 laser incidents in the Vancouver area per year and aircraft across the country have dealt with similar attacks.It's worse in the U.S. -- where planes are hit 3,800 times per year on average.

While Kowalski said lasers are crucial for astronomy and medical reasons, he believes it should be illegal to use the devices for personal use.

“It should be illegal to possess them…for the layperson to order off the internet and have it shipped to their address, we shouldn’t allow that,” he said.

Kowalski recently presented a protocol to deal with laser incidents that has since been adopted by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.

CTV’s Chopper 9 camera operator Murray Titus has been flying for over a decade and said he was shot with an “intense green light” while orbiting over a Steveston Highway crime scene.

“It was a big wide beam…and you could see the beam through the atmosphere,” he said. “At the very least, it’s an assault…if it blinded our pilot the three of us could have been killed…If I have a blind pilot, chances are, it’s not gonna end well for us.”

Chopper 9 pilot Guiv Nabavi was flying at an altitude of about 1,000 feet when the laser hit the helicopter.

“I was just in my orbit and suddenly the whole cockpit just lit up in green and [I] was just wondering what was happening,” he said. “A couple of seconds can result in an upside-down helicopter, so [it’s] pretty bad.”

Flashing a laser at an aircraft is a crime under the Criminal Code of Canada, the Aeronautics Act and the Canadian Aviation Regulations.

No one was injured in Monday's incidents, and no arrests have been made.

With a report from CTV British Columbia’s St. John Alexander