AirTran Flight 15 departed Orlando International Airport Jan. 8 and was heading south about 400 feet off the ground when Capt. Jerry Egel was hit in the face by a bright green laser.
The laser tracked him for 30 to 60 seconds until he reached an altitude of about 2,000 feet, according to an affidavit filed in federal court.
Egel turned all the plane’s lights off and made a sharp left turn, requesting permission to change course to avoid the laser.
It was an incident that placed his life, and the lives of his passengers, at risk and launched an investigation that resulted in 49-year-old Glenn Stephen Hansen of St. Cloud being accused of aiming lasers at passenger aircraft departing from OIA at least 23 times from that day until Friday.
After that first incident, the investigation focused on the area directly south of the airport, according to the affidavit prepared by Federal Air Marshal Cheyenne C. Sykes.
The investigation led to Hansen, who had made more than 500 complaints about noise from OIA and at one noise abatement meeting said he had used a golf range finder to determine the height of planes.
On Friday, AirTran Flight 15 was again hit by a laser. This time it was Capt. Douglas John Wysocki piloting the plane en route to San Juan when the laser entered the cockpit at about 3,500 feet.
And this time authorities were staking out Hansen’s home in the 4900 block of Parkview Drive and watched as the laser came from a rear upstairs window and aimed at the aircraft taking off overhead, according to the affidavit, which was used to obtain a search warrant.
That search warrant was served about 4 a.m. Saturday by an FBI agent.
According to the federal complaint filed against Hansen, he admitted to pointing the laser at airplanes as “stress release,” and he told agents he suffered from “noise anxiety.”
He told officers he had no idea the laser affected pilots and placed passengers at risk and that it did not know that it was wrong to point the laser at the planes.
The laser was found in a drawer in the master bedroom of the home.
Arrests for pointing lasers at aircraft usually involve helicopters, because they are able to hover over the area until ground units arrive, said Patrick Murphy, who operates the website LaserPointerSafety.com.
The 23 counts against Hansen are the most charges he has seen filed, Murphy said. They account for 3.4 percent of all laser complaints in the United States this year and all but one complaint this year involving aircraft at OIA.