A 20-year-old Houston man has been ordered to federal prison after admitting to pointing a green laser light at an Airbus AS350 B2 helicopter while it was in the air, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick. Bryan Aldana pleaded guilty Monday, April 22, 2019.
Today, U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes handed Aldana a 48-month sentence to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release. In handing down the sentence, the court noted Aldana’s irresponsible behavior shows he did not give thought to the people flying the aircraft and to the people on the ground. “The world is about responsibilities to other people,” said Hughes.
On June 23, 2018, Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) agents were flying a the helicopter on routine law enforcement patrol. At approximately 9:00 p.m., they were headed in the northwest direction along highway US-290 when agents observed a flash of green light coming from the left side of the aircraft. At the time, they were at approximately 1000 feet elevation and traveling at a speed of 70-80 knots.
The pilot reversed the aircraft back to the southeast direction and was illuminated again by the green laser, which was powerful enough to light up the entire cockpit. The light caused a glare in the pilot’s eyes and obstructed his vision, forcing him to turn his head and maneuver the Airbus away from it. The pilot also had to close and shield his eyes from the flashing green laser inside the cockpit.
The investigation led to the source of the light at a business near the intersection of Hollister and Pitner Roads in Houston. Aldema was soon identified with the help of the Houston Police Department (HPD) and the store’s security cameras.
Video recordings show Aldana aiming a green laser up in the sky several times and a green laser pointer at the helicopter while sitting in a chair next to a silver sedan. He was also seen placing the green laser device through the opening of the silver sedan window on to the backseat.
Officers seized the laser and submitted it to a National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientist to be examined. The scientist concluded the laser pointer is a Class IIIB laser system and produced a “laser beam” which could result in serious and possibly permanent retinal damage.
Previously released on bond, Aldana appeared before Judge Hughes June 28, 2019, at which time the court found he had violated the terms of his release and ordered Aldana into custody. He will remain there pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The FBI, HPD and DPS conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Porto is prosecuting the case.