US Airways Pilot's Gun Fires During A Flight

WHO: US Airways and the TSA
WHAT: A gun carried by a US Airways pilot accidentally discharged during a flight from Denver to Charlotte on Saturday, according to airline and federal officials. No one was injured, and the aircraft was not in any danger during the flight, officials said. The pilot had been approved by the TSA to carry the weapon.
WHERE:Pilot’s gun goes off on US Airways flight [Charlotte Observer]
THE QUOTE:In a statement, the TSA said that the agency and “Federal Air Marshals Service take this matter seriously and it is receiving immediate attention.”

“Taking it seriously” is a phrase companies use over and over again in public statements whenever they have bad PR. Our series of posts on occurrences of the phrase is our attempt to question how seriously companies are really taking these matters if every time they trot out this phrase by rote. To see more examples of how companies are “taking it seriously” click here.

(Photo:Flying Photog)


Edit Your Comment

  1. MPHinPgh says:

    Umm…wow. That’s pretty scary. Wouldn’t you think the safety was on? I’m not well versed in handguns, but I do know that the safety usually makes it fairly hard to accidentally discharge the gun.

  2. Ciao_Bambina says:

    So many questions…

  3. MPHinPgh says:

    OK, US Airways is having a rough day. I just read that a small section of “wing cover” dislodged from a 757 over MD and hit the side of the plane while in flight.

  4. nutrigm says:

    If they get too serious the pilot may aim the gun at them! :D

  5. The Porkchop Express says:

    @MPHinPgh: You are correct. And most/hopefully all gun owners keep the safety on until they are ready to shoot something.

  6. smirky says:

    At least the pilot did not have more than 3oz of water. That would have spelled real disaster.

  7. Trai_Dep says:

    When the airlines installed hardened, bullet-proof doors, we didn’t realize it was to save the passengers from (the thankfully, few) wanna-be Rambos piloting our jets. Sadly, even in a 10’x20′, enclosed space, he still manages to miss.

  8. nequam says:

    People don’t accidentally discharge. Guns do.

  9. clevershark says:

    I’m not a firearms expert or anything, but isn’t it rather dangerous to carry a firearm with a round in the chamber (which is pretty much the only way you can accidentally fire it)?

  10. stubblyhead says:

    @Lo-Pan: Not all handguns have safeties. Glocks come to mind.

  11. flyingphotog says:

    @ Trai: 10’x20′?? Have you ever visited a flight deck? More like 4’x6′ on these small Airbus jets.

  12. bustit22 says:

    How come the plane didn’t “explosively decompress”?? That’s what happens in the movies!!!

    @clevershark: A gun is pretty useless if you don’t have a round in the chamber. Try racking the slide while a Jihadist saws at your neck.

    On a serious note, the pilot must have been finger-f$%king the pistol or something. Guns in holsters don’t just “go off”.

  13. RandoX says:

    @stubblyhead: Technically, Glocks have a safety built into the trigger that has to be engaged before the firing mechanism will activate. It all depends on what you consider a “safety” to be. The backstrap on most 1911s have a safety that must be engaged to fire, but also have a more traditional safety.

    Regardless, your original statement stands, considering that most revolvers don’t come with a safety of any type, unless you want to include some of the newer ones (esp. Smith & Wesson) with the built-in trigger lock.

  14. anapex says:

    Whether it’s a model with a safety or not (the article doesn’t mention) unless something was seriously wrong with the pistol it shouldn’t have gone off. Guns don’t “just go off” accidentally or intentionally. My vote is he had it out showing it off or playing around with it. Unless there was something mechanically wrong with it, then just ignore me. Some of you probably already have.

  15. smitty1123 says:

    There is no such thing as an “accidental discharge”, there are only negligent discharges.

  16. clevershark says:

    @bustit22: a pilot isn’t a beat cop. He has a locked, reinforced door between him and any fantasy Jihadist sawing his neck off.

  17. LetMeGetTheManager says:

    The last discharge that caused a disturbance on a flight before was this story:


    Although I am sure this incident would have caused a lot more harm if someone was hit in the head.

  18. Clumber says:

    @ MPHinPgh & CleverShark;

    Without knowing the model or even type of handgun, it’s difficult to guess here. If it was a revolver, well then there is always going to be a round in the chamber if you have it fully loaded. If an auto, it is common to keep a round in the chamber for self-defense – if you don’t want to have to rack the round 1st – again it depends on the model. Single-action vs double-action, and so on. As already mentioned, some handguns don’t have typical safeties, some have multiple safeties… etc. A responsible gun owner never trusts the safety.

    Regardless, guns do NOT just “go off”. I was taught that all guns are always loaded, always. Most self-defense handguns I have ‘met’ also have a pretty substantially weighted trigger pull, so are difficult to fire “accidentally”. As already mentioned, this is a stupidity discharge, not an accidental one.

    Then again – how else can the flight crew be expected to keep those rabble-rousing TSA agents in line?!

  19. Trai_Dep says:

    @flyingphotog: I’ve tried to visit a flight deck, since I’m in awe of pilots and jets in general. However, since I was only packing a .22, the pilot and navigator laughed, disparaged my manhood and sent me trotting back to economy class. :(

  20. Trai_Dep says:

    As someone that’s fired a fair amount of guns (be scared: a Progressive that can shoot!), the idea that you need a live round in chamber in routine situations is ludicrous in the extreme. Life isn’t Die Hard, people. It takes a half-second to pull the slide. Especially in a contained, secure environment.

  21. Simkins says:


    Although the model is unknown at this time, i think ANY gun that is carried on a commercial airplane SHOULD be equiped with a safety. I agree, guns do not just go off, someone was probably just being a hero…

  22. jwarner132 says:


    Absolutely. I’m betting he violated one of the top rules of gun safety: Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.

    I blame it on people getting bad ideas from movies where the heroes go running around holding guns with their fingers always on the trigger, or posters of James Bond doing poses standing there holding his PPK with his finger on the trigger.

    The safe way to hold a gun is how Glock’s spokesperson R. Lee Ermey does it: finger off the trigger. pic: []

  23. Sixxtwo says:

    The line that gets me is: No one was injured, and the aircraft was not in any danger during the flight, officials said.

    The aircraft was not in any danger? Are you f**king kidding me? A bullet flying thru, what is (used generously) the brain of an aircraft. One nicked wire, or damaged PCB and its FailPlane pics all over the intertubes! rararrawr

    /end rant

    *Channels Bill Hicks* Go back to sleep america, go back to sleep.

  24. The Porkchop Express says:

    @RandoX: I was gonna mention that some revolvers don’t have a safety, but are still a bit of a challenge to accidentally discharge. you know pulling back the hammer and what not.

  25. rmz says:

    @nequam: *snicker*

  26. BuddyGuyMontag says:

    This can all be traced back to Macho Grande… grande… grande…

  27. BuddyGuyMontag says:

    @nequam: My friend’s prom date begs to differ.

  28. Interesting story, good to hear no one was hurt and hopefully this guy got the scare of his life. Next time he will take extra precautions to make sure his firearm is secure I bet. I’m glad to hear of a pilot packing heat though makes me feel a bit safer, seriously.

  29. sir_eccles says:

    From experience, most “accidents” like this start with the phrase “Hey, watch this…”. Time to check the cockpit voice recorder I think!

  30. redheadedstepchild says:

    Glock Leg Maybe?

  31. axiomatic says:

    Interesting story, lets see what I can make of it:

    Well…I can make a hat, a broche, or a pterodactyl…


  32. Mr_D says:

    We can go back and forth on whether the safety was on, or if the guy was using proper trigger discipline, or if it was loaded. But what about this question: Why did he have it in the first place?

    He’s cleared by the TSA to carry it… that’s good. But why? To fend off terrorists? Execute ornery passengers? Target shooting?

  33. Mr_D says:

    Sorry, never mind, I didn’t read the article. It IS to fend off terrorists.

  34. uberbucket says:

    The guns-in-cockpits program flummoxes security experts, however. “If you reinforce the cockpit door and keep it closed, why do you need weapons on board? They could get misplaced or misused.” Aviation Insecurity: The New Challenges of Air Travel

    On El Al flights, bulletproof cockpit doors remain locked from before boarding until the last passenger has disembarked. It’s a simple requirement that ensures no terrorist can gain access to the controls.

    Do airlines in the US not do this? It sounds like the most simple/effective way of prevention.

  35. hi says:

    I have nothing against pilots having weapons on-board but they should definatly not be discharged on ‘accident’.

  36. Wormfather says:

    @nequam: That’s what she said.

  37. carterbeauford says:

    lmao @ them taking seriously guns that pull their own triggers. best of luck with that one.

    gun must have grown a mind of its own, desperate for attention decided to discharge himself. poor little gun. no one payed attention to him.

    pilot is 100% at fault here and should be terminated. has nothing to do with safeties or anything other than personal responsibility. I carry a Kel-Tec P11 with no safety and it has never decided to discharge itself.

  38. Trai_Dep says:

    @hi: Sigh. Then you’re not the sharpest knife in the drawer. There’s simply no scenario (outside of 24) where this is A Good Idea. And if you’re relying on 24 to shape your national security outlook, this reflects more on you than on the idiot wannabe Rambo pilot.

  39. rjhiggins says:

    Given recent stories regarding pilots, I wonder if alcohol might have been involved. Now we’re talking really scary.

  40. bdgbill says:

    Proof that US Airways pilots are no smarter than their baggage handlers, gate agents, maintenance crews, flight attendants or upper management.

    How comically bad can an airline get and still be considered an airline? Nuclear waste should be packed into 26″ roller luggage and booked on US Airways flights connecting through Philly. The nuclear waste will disappear into nothingness and cease to exist.


    I will not feel the slightest twinge of sadness when this company inevitably goes to join their betters (far better) Eastern, Pan Am and TWA in that big holding pattern in the sky.

  41. rjhiggins says:

    @Trai_Dep: Go back to the hysteria after 9/11 and you’ll find that the prevailing mood was that pilots should definitely be armed. I’m not one of them, but I think you’ll find a lot of people still holding that opinion, reinforced cockpit doors or not.

  42. Ezra Ekman says:

    There seems to be a fair amount of confusion about exactly how firearms and ammunition work, most notably that they all work the same. They don’t. Stop making assumptions based on what you see in the movies.

    First, there is NO such thing as a safe firearm. If you have a gun, assume it’s loaded. A significant percentage of accidents happen each year because someone has incorrectly assumed that a weapon was not leaded. Or that the safety was on when it wasn’t. Or that the safety is an end-all absolute. In act, safeties do NOT always prevent accidental discharges. There have been several recalls from companies that used fancy mechanical safety indicators that actually introduced new problems, such as being subject to accidental discharge from shock (such as being dropped or struck at a particular angle), so just because the safety is on does not mean the weapon is safe. The only “safe” firearm is one being handled by a “safe” user who never points it at something he or she does not intend to shoot, regardless of whether or not the weapon is loaded or has it’s safety engaged.

    Second, not all firearms even HAVE safety catch mechanisms. Glocks, Springfield XDs… there are many out there that have hand or trigger safeties (a small piece of metal or plastic in either the tip of the trigger, the back of the handle, or both) that will usually prevent accidental discharges because the hand needs to be putting both pressure on the back of the handle (meaning the user is gripping the weapon firmly) and on the tip of the trigger (meaning the user has placed their finger on the trigger), the latter of which should NEVER be done unless the user has lined up their sight and is ready to fire.

    Bearing all of this in mind, not all weapons have a thumb safety, or a hand safety, or a trigger safety, or even ANY safety. I think it’s pretty likely that there was SOME sort of safety mechanism on the weapon, but as I stated before, they are NOT foolproof. I’ve heard about accidental discharges while holstering a weapon (the hand was applying pressure to the hand safety and the trigger safety was depressed by the edge of the poly holster, causing a discharge), dropping a weapon (inadequate drop-safety mechanisms, or a hand-safety only and it was dropped on an uneven surface, etc.), and so on. It’s anyone’s guess as to how it happened, but accidental discharges, EVEN WITH SAFETIES ON, are more common that many people think. That’s why we hear about accidental gun-related deaths. In short, YOU are the safety that matters most. Assume all weapons are loaded, cocked and have a round chambered, keep your finger out of the trigger guard until you’re ready to fire, and never point a weapon at something you don’t intend to shoot.

    As far as the “no damage to the aircraft” claim goes, it should be noted that there are many different types of ammunition. For example, while a military weapon will usually be loaded with what is called “ball” ammunition (a full metal jacket of copper surrounding a slid lead core, without a hollow point) due to Geneva Convention restrictions on types of allowable ammunition to be used in warfare, it is usually the case that police and home defense ammunition is some form of hollowpoint ammunition. Why? Two reasons:

    First, safety. When ball ammunition hits something, it usually keeps going. Some handgun ammunition has been known to penetrate the walls of 3-4 houses (which are essentially just drywall and a thin layer of wood, aluminum, etc.) before stopping. That’s a LOT of potential for collateral damage. What if you have an intruder in your home and you take a shot at him, but the bullet passes right through his or her chest and into another room in the house where a loved one is sleeping? Ball ammunition can be dangerous, and is really best used in scenarios where additional penetration is needed, such as a police officer who is having a shoot-out with a suspect who is hiding behind or in a vehicle, etc. Unlike ball ammunition, hollowpoint rounds will expand when they hit the target (depending on the materials it hits), causing a significant loss of speed and energy.

    Second, stopping power. When you are under attack, your first objective is to STOP the attacker. Barring a luck head shot (which should NOT be attempted while under stress (such as being attacked), stopping the subject means causing blood loss. The larger the holes you put in your attacker, the more blood loss occurs. The maximum damage that can be applied from a handgun bullet is usually in the form of a hollowpoint, although a new revolver was released last year that accepts .410 shotgun shells. How does a hollowpoint work? Well, the tip of the pullet is “hollowed” out, weakening the structural integrity. When it hits something relatively soft (such as soft tissue, for example), the thin edges of the tip buckle and mushroom out, creating a much larger hole. Additionally, the bullet’s forward energy is spread out over a larger area, both slowing the bullet down and delivering that much more energy to the target. Larger rounds deliver more energy. This is sometimes referred to as “stopping power”.

    Why is all of this relevant? Well, it’s pretty likely that the pilot of a vehicle with a pressurized cabin and many delicate instruments with sensitive moving parts was NOT using ball ammo. Hollowpoints are much less likely to penetrate metal panels and various other hard objects… although of course nothing is certain. Was the aircraft in danger? Possibly. But probably not unless he fired a shot into the flight controls or out the window or something.

  43. avconsumer says:

    A gun “accidentally discharged.”

    While a very informative post above, the odds of this being anything BUT the pilots fault are twenty seven hundred ga-jillion to one.

  44. Shadowfire says:

    @EzraEkman: The ammunition used is actually designed to break into powder on hitting a hard target – safety first, and all that. It’s not a hollow point, but I honestly don’t remember what its called.

    Otherwise, excellent post.

  45. Canoehead says:

    Even though this pilot clearly made an error, as pilot errors go, it could have been a lot worse – like miscalculating fuel requirements, thinking you can land into a strong cross-wind and misjudging how much runway you have left. All that said, this guys should be fired forthwith. I’ve always argued that anyone who can be trusted with a jet filled with passengers and jet fuel can, if properly trained, be trusted with a gun. I guess the corollary is that anyone who cannot be trusted with a gun, should probably not be trusted with an airplance.

  46. Canoehead says:

    @Shadowfire: Frangible

  47. Shadowfire says:

    @Canoehead: Thanks, you’re awesome.

  48. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    I carry a Sig P239 every day for self defense. It does not have a separate safety, but it does have a firing pin block that is not disengaged until the trigger has been pulled.

    There are many rules to follow when handling a firearm.

    When I first started carrying my handgun I had an inexpensive holster. When in a restroom I had the gun FALL out and land on the tile, hammer first. Had it not been for the firing pin block, the gun WOULD have discharged. Since not all guns have firing pin blocks, this is one plausible way it could have happened.

    The pilots are required to transport their firearms in a locked case until they are on the flight deck. My best guess is that the pilot didn’t holster his weapon while on the ground, and was then careless holstering in flight.

    I know at least one pilot who said the best reason to carry a weapon is the ability to bypass the TSA security. They only get to with the certification and the weapon.

    To finish, carrying a gun without a round in the chamber is foolish. The pilot might not get a lot of warning, and a lot can happen in half a second.

  49. Trai_Dep says:

    @EzraEkman: Nice post!

  50. camille_javal says:

    @AustinTXProgrammer: Texas. Color me shocked.

  51. SnotFare says:

    wow, just…wow

  52. JustaConsumer says:

    Guns a a plane! What a retarded idea.

  53. MountainCop says:

    What EzraEkman said! (and said very well)

    As someone who is actually trained to carry onboard aircraft (yes, there is a special course of instruction available to LEOs), the main concern with firing a weapon on an aircraft is avoiding the aircraft control systems (hydraulics), the fuel system (not as easy to do), and hitting other passengers that you really aren’t trying to shoot.

    Unless the pilot’s sidearm is seriously defective, has no safeties of any type (there are a few out there), or is subject to ‘slam-fires’ (which would be caused by using an improper or ill-fitting holster), I’ll bet a dozen donuts (aka ‘power rings’) he was screwing around with it.

    Round in the chamber: A gun with an empty chamber is what we call an expensive lump of metal. A half a second is a lifetime (literally) in a gun fight. Believe me, if you are in a gun fight and need to fire the first round, you will NOT have the fine motor skills necessary to pull the slide back and chamber a round.

    Your mileage may vary…

  54. ViperBorg says:

    There is no such thing as an “accidental discharge”. If it goes off, and the user of the firearm didn’t mean for it to go off, that’s negligence. That person should never be allowed to carry a firearm again.

  55. kbarrett says:

    @ViperBorg: An AD can happen … it requires an actual malfunction, due to wear or some other fault.

    I discovered a malf on my wife’s new Detonics the hard way … it discharged when the slide chambered a round. The sear was later discovered to be defective.

    But because I was following the other three rules, the bullet struck an empty waterbed, and went no further ( bed required one patch ).

    That being said … I’m also pretty sure you are correct, and that this was an ND … probably another trigger discipline failure while re-holstering a GLOCK, in my opinion.

  56. Ezra Ekman says:

    @ViperBorg: Saying there’s no such thing as an accidental discharge is like saying there’s no such thing as an accidental collision. As kbarrett pointed out, ADs happen from a variety of different reasons. Metal fatigue can cause springs to loosen or snap and shell ejectors to break, and primers can malfunction causing rounds to go off when you don’t expect them to, or not when you do. Casings can jam, chambers can break (effectively turning the firearm into a grenade), and the list goes on and on. It sounds like perhaps you have a bone to pick with gun owners and, while you certainly have the right to do so, this isn’t the forum for it. Your comments are inaccurate.

    That said, I’m leaning more towards the side of negligence in this case. However, it’s really quite presumptuous of any of us to say “Pilot error!” or “Malfunction!” since we don’t have access to the flight recorder and none of us were present in the plane at the time of the discharge, much less in the cabin where it took place.

    You said something else interesting:

    “That person should never be allowed to carry a firearm again.”

    I heard a story once about a corporate buyer who made a series of bad investments that cost his company over $10 million dollars. His first thought was to tender his resignation. His manager looked at it and said “What’s this?” He said “My resignation, or course.” His manager looked at him and asked “Why would I fire someone that I just spent ten million dollars to train?” The idea here is that, in both cases, barring some form of severe negligence (a complete lack of care, perhaps being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, etc.), those two individuals will probably be FAR more careful than another might be in a similar situation in the future, having had this experience. No one was hurt, and I believe it is likely that the FAA and US Airways will investigate this very carefully. Perhaps they’ll decide that he was doing something stupid, such as playing with it like several posters here have suggested. Or perhaps there really was a malfunction. Who knows? Let the folks responsible for the investigation decide what happened and what should be done about it.

    Should pilots carry weapons into the cabin? I don’t think it’s unreasonable, although more training might be in order. Should they be firearms or something else? That depends on far too many factors to list here. As you will see if you read my original post above, I agree wholeheartedly with the necessity for gun safety and care. But statements like yours are erroneous in nature and your proposed solution/punishment is, quite frankly, ridiculous.

  57. digitalgimpus says:

    heh… “accident”. Yea right. If that’s true, aren’t all crimes really “accidents”?

    He fired a gun in close quarters. That’s putting lives in danger. It’s reckless and irresponsible for someone with the job of ensuring safety on an aircraft. Let him do his time (5-10 sounds fair) and lets move on.

    I know at least one pilot who said the best reason to carry a weapon is the ability to bypass the TSA security. They only get to with the certification and the weapon.

    That’s called a security hole for a reason. Sad really. By getting a gun, they are no longer subject to searches, meaning they can smuggle anything they want aboard the aircraft and not get caught. For a terrorist, drug dealer, etc. What you need to do is hire a pilot with a gun. That’s cuts out one security check.

    People with security clearance committing crimes? Never! Oh wait, there’s a dozen reports right there. Doh!

  58. vastrightwing says:

    Watch this gun: [] You can help make sure it won’t commit any crimes.

  59. Trai_Dep says:

    @MountainCop: I’d respectfully disagree. In a gun fight, yes, we’re on the same page. Locked and loaded, half-second count.
    But we’re far from that situation here.
    Behind a hardened cockpit door, in-flight, carrying a load of passengers already screened? Who would rip a hijacker to shredded little bits before the miscreant could finish standing (this far past, 9-11 passengers would never be docile)?
    Odds of something stupid happening outweigh the odds of a situation arising in that environment that would necessitate chambering the round.

  60. Shadowfire says:

    @digitalgimpus: Once again, we come back to the original argument in all of this – if you can’t trust these people with a gun, how can you trust them with a plane?

  61. digitalgimpus says:

    Shadowfire: The security hole is not about the gun. It’s about a way to avoid security. Anytime there is a way to avoid security, it’s a hole, so stop creating FUD.

    Airline staff has been arrested many times for activity despite having been given clearance to get close to aircraft.

    Anytime you give someone a free pass, they have the opportunity to corrupt.

    You can still allow them to carry a gun, and make them go through the same security process.

    One can argue the president shouldn’t be subject to US law himself. After all, he is the president. If you can’t trust him to follow the law… how can you elect him? But we still have congress, the judicial and legislative branches for the same reason.

    ANYTIME you give someone a pass, you create a security hole. No exceptions.

    TSA should even be randomly auditing each other on a daily basis. Nobody should be without oversight from someone else. And that “someone” should be an individual they don’t normally deal with, so no “deals” can be made.

  62. Ezra Ekman says:

    Well, some more details about the issue have been released, and it sounds a lot more like negligence than an accident. My guess is that the pilot was showing it off or playing with it, as anapex suggested.

    According to an AP article, the weapon was .40 Heckler & Koch USP. As some of you may know, this particular firearm DOES have a manual safety, as opposed to a passive safety such as a hand or trigger safety. In other words, the pilot either forgot to engage the safety or intentionally disengaged it. Hard to say which is worse; wandering around with a hot weapon or playing with it in the cockpit. The only *potentially* acceptable reason for the safety to have been disengaged was that some models require that the safety be disengaged to pull the slide back. I am not familiar enough with the USP to say one way or the other. Perhaps the pilot did not have a round chambered for the walk through the airport and then disengaged the slide in order to chamber a round once he was in the cockpit. *shrug* Doubtful at best, since he should have immediately put the safety back on, and the discharge did not happen until later, once the plane was airborne.

    Another interesting point from the article was that the FAA is NOT going to participating in the investigation. (?!) I guess they were only concerned with the plane, and are leaving the issue of the pilot to the airline to deal with. Mildly disturbing. “Aw, we’re sure the head honchos over at US Airways can handle this itty-bitty issue!”

    One final item of note: the level and angle of the exit hole makes it look as though the pilot was sitting in his seat, and, well, playing with the gun. I’m no forensic specialist, nor am I terribly familiar with the layout of that particular cockpit, but that’s what it looks like to me.

  63. jecowa says:


    I was issued a gun with a broken safety at a paint gun park.

  64. Jenger says:

    what the %&$#@! was this pilot doing? The hk usp has a safety and the hk p2000 does not. In either case the trigger has to be pulled to discharge and the trigger pull is not light. Any gun handler knows that you keep your finger off the trigger when handling any gun unless you intend to shoot. This is negligence to a major degree. a pilot who is trained in safety should not make this error, EVER!

  65. Ezra Ekman says:

    @ Jenger: Unfortunately, many gun handlers do NOT know basic gun safety. All that’s required in many states is that you pass a simple written test (most of which is basic common sense), which may or may not contain that particular question. And of course, many of those safety rules are forgotten if the gun owner/user does not practice regularly, or does not take some form of safety class. Your assumption is unsafe at best. I don’t know much about the H&K USP’s trigger pull, but I’ve personally used stock triggers that didn’t require much pull at all, and many are modified (either individually or in bulk for the military, for example) to allow for an easier pull. Is it negligence? Absolutely, in my book, unless it’s shown that the safety was actually engaged and was somehow defective. But stop making unsafe assumptions.

    That said, this pilot DEFINITELY should have known. According to this Associated Press article, the pilot took a week-long training program before he was allowed to carry the weapon on board. I don’t know the content of the course, but one would assume that the “finger outside the trigger guard” rule would be item #1 when picking the things up in the first place. Greg Alter of the Federal Air Marshal Service was quoted in the article as having said (among other things) “Gun safety is the crux of this course.” Sounds like the pilot didn’t get the memo. Time to yank that certificate and send him back to training. Fortunately, he’s already been removed from the program for now, pending the investigation results.

    Also, according to the article, the pilot was attempting to stow the weapon which had, until that point, been in his shoulder holster. As I mentioned above, that means he was wandering around an airport with a loaded weapon, a round chambered, and the safety off. Bad, bad, BAD. Geeze, even the secret service keeps their safeties on, as does every law enforcement agency in the country, that I’m aware of. The military ostensibly does, though this may vary between service and groups. This pilot is none of the above. Or, perhaps he’d had it locked up in some sort of case. Better, but why wasn’t the safety on before he placed it in the case? Something stinks.

    It might also be worth mentioning that, according to This USA Today article, although the gun discharged at 8,000 feet, the pilot didn’t notify air traffic control or say the bullet had punctured the cockpit until after the plane landed. At that time, he picked up the phone and called the TSA. Interesting. Granted, they were landing the plane, and there appeared to be no immediate risk to the aircraft. But they had no way of knowing that immediately. Plus, they were still PREPARING to land, and thus “stowing” the firearm. Doesn’t that at least warrant a mention to the tower in case there was a catastrophe? “Let the next guy know what killed you,” and all that?

    According to this ABC News article, “Government aviation sources say a bullet was discharged by the pilot in the left seat, pierced the left side of the aircraft’s cockpit wall and exited the aircraft,” which begs the question: what were they over and have there been any unexplained bullet holes and/or injuries/casualties reported in the same timeframe? I wonder if that’s been examined yet.