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US: UPDATED - Orlando man arrested for lasing aircraft 23 times in 3 months

An Orlando-area man was arrested for aiming laser beams at least 23 times from January to March 2012 at aircraft taking off from Orlando International Airport. [UPDATED - May 16 2012: Hanson pleaded guilty to one count; he faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. UPDATE 2 - August 23 2012: Hanson received a six month prison sentence, plus one year probation and had to pay $10,000 restitution.]

Glenn Stephen Hansen laser
Glenn Stephen Hansen

Glenn Stephen Hansen, 49, told arresting FBI agents that he aimed a laser pointer as “stress relief” from “noise anxiety” due to aircraft flying overhead. He had filed over 500 complaints against the noise. He told the agents that airplanes “purposefully flew lower over his house in response to the noise complaints.” He was aware that shining the laser at aircraft was “wrong” but that he “had no idea” that the light could affect the pilots and cause a hazard.

Hansen was arrested March 24 2012 on new federal charges signed into law Feb. 14 by President Obama. He faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

LaserPointerSafety.com is not aware of any other person being arrested for so many laser incidents. If Hansen is responsible for 23 incidents, that represents 3.4% of all U.S. incidents, and 96% of all incidents involving Orlando International Airport, during the period in question (from January 1 through March 23).

Pic 2012-03-27 at 11.51.04 AM
Hansen was arrested at a home about 7 miles southwest of Orlando International Airport (black square).

The FBI investigation started after a January 8 2012 incident involving an AirTran departure that was 400 feet in the air when the pilot was flashed with a green light. He was tracked for 30-60 seconds, to an altitude of 2000 feet. The pilot took evasive actions including turning off all lights, making a sharp left turn, and asking for a change of course. The pilot told the FBI “he was concerned he could lose vision on the plane.”

The FBI focused on Hansen due to his previous noise complaints. Because of the accuracy of the laser “hits”, they believed Hansen was tracking flights on public websites. His home was placed under surveillance. At about 9 pm March 23 they observed a green beam coming from his house, shining towards an aircraft. (The pilot stated that the light illuminated the cockpit but did not go directly in his eye.) Hansen was arrested at about 4 am the next morning.

From the Orlando Sentinel and the criminal complaint/search warrant. The text of the U.S. Attorney’s office press release is below (click the “Read More…” link).

United States Attorney Robert E. O’Neill, Middle District of Florida

For immediate release March 26, 2012


Orlando, FL - United States Attorney Robert E. O'Neill announces the filing of a criminal complaint charging Glenn Stephen Hansen (49, Orlando) with aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft. If convicted, Hansen faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

According to court documents, on at least 23 occasions between January 2012 and March 23, 2012, Hansen aimed the beam of a laser at passenger aircraft departing from the Orlando International Airport. The complaint alleges that the aiming of the laser at the departing aircraft caused pilots to take evasive maneuvers during takeoff, and placed the aircraft in danger during a critical time flight. According to one pilot allegedly struck by Hansen’s laser, the ascension of the plane is a delicate process, and blinding the pilot during takeoff distracts the pilot from critical flight duties, thereby placing passengers at great risk.

On Feb. 14, President Barack Obama signed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which modernizes the nation's aviation system. This Act establishes a new criminal offense for aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, or at the flight path of such an aircraft. The statute was enacted in response to a growing number of incidents of pilots being distracted or even temporarily blinded by laser beams. A criminal complaint is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of the federal criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Daniel C. Irick.