US Airways Pilot Who Fired Gun In Cockpit Will Himself Be Fired

The US Airways pilot who accidentally fired his weapon in the cockpit of a plane will be fired, says CNN. The pilot, Capt. James Langenhahn, 55, was not available for comment. He told investigators that he was stowing his weapon in preparation to land when the gun went off. The bullet pierced the jet’s fuselage but did not hit any crucial wiring or instrumentation, according to the TSA.

A group that trains pilots to carry handguns, the Federal Flight Deck Officers Association, says it will fight the termination. “This was accidental not intentional,” Karn told CNN. “This is not the way to treat a long-term pilot.”

Group: Pilot whose gun went off will be fired [CNN]


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  1. BuddyGuyMontag says:

    He’ll never get over Macho Grande.

  2. BuddyGuyMontag says:

    Isn’t 55 near the mandatory retirement age for pilots anyway? He probably got an early retirement package.

  3. BuddyGuyMontag says:

    And Cardinals on an airplane? Are the stewardesses Leinart’s castoffs? If so, maybe US Scare ain’t so bad…

  4. a says:

    US Airways has no retirement package because they went bankrupt. And I believe retirement age is closer to 65.

  5. chartrule says:

    the Los Angeles Times has a bit more info on what happened as well as a bit of insight on the training these armed pilots get


  6. mgy says:

    Is Lee Paige flying planes now?

  7. APFPilot says:

    @LaurenKitsune: In the US mandatory retirement age for Pilots was 60 up until about 8 months ago. Now it has been bumped to 65 as long as the second pilot is under 60.

  8. AlphaUltima says:

    that’s disturbing. last thing i want to see before my flight is the pilot in his walker/wheelchair/breathing apparatus crawling down the gate.

  9. StevieD says:

    Guns go off all the time when the Safety is not engaged and somebody gives the tigger a good squeeze.

  10. why’d the gun need to be stowed? It should have already been in a holster…

  11. Snowblind says:


    There is no safety on the model that is issued, i.e. they have no choice, it is a double action pistol.

    The holster was modified so a PADLOCK went INSIDE the trigger guard, ensuring at some point the firearm would discharge accidently.

    Here is a writeup by an experienced shooter as to what went wrong at the TSA:

    All true…my understanding is that the gun chosen for the pilots is the double-action-only version using H-K’s LEM (Law Enforcement Module) system to lighten the DA pull. Here’s the H-K catalog page.

    What do we know about double-action only guns, whether they be semiautos or revolvers? Well, the first thing we know is that if you pull the trigger, the gun will go bang. The longer DA stroke guarantees that there has to be a deliberate pull of the trigger for the gun to fire.

    Here’s an important question…does it take a deliberate finger to pull a trigger? Ummmm, no…the trigger doesn’t know or care what pulls it. You can pull a trigger with a pencil, a tree branch or the snagged tail of your shirt. People who carry pocket pistols not in a pocket holster have pulled the trigger with their pocket change. And consider the word “deliberate.” A finger on the trigger can unintentionally fire a gun, say if the person whose finger is on the trigger is jossled or bumped, or if they have to grab with their weak hand, which can sometimes cause a sympathetic clinching of hand on the gun. Or let’s say your finger is on the trigger when you attempt to reholster the gun…it’ll go bang every time…probably the most common neglient discharge in the world.

    That trigger thing is why we have moved to holsters for concealed carry and competition that fully cover the trigger guard, blocking access to the trigger. The harder it is to get to the trigger accidentally, the less likely the gun is going to go bang when we don’t want it to.


  12. nonzenze says:

    This is such amazing bullshit. First the TSA invents a ridiculous and unworkable system for securing a gun, now they fire this guy.

    I hope he goes on the national media and blows them all to hell.

  13. Noiddog says:

    I was always taught, don’t point a gun at something or someone you don’t intend to shoot. Obviously… he knew well before the rest of us that it is time to put that old plane down.

  14. Skrizzy says:

    @APFPilot: Whats more, they are considering relaxing the age 65 rule for a few years because of a lack of pilots to replace current ones.

  15. What do they mean by ‘stowing the weapon in preparation to land’? During the flight, is it part of procedure to remove the gun from its storage location at all?

    The circumstances in which the pilot should need to use the weapon are exceedingly rare. Given that, why would it need to be moved/prepared/touched at all during flight?

  16. digitalgimpus says:

    Regardless there was poor judgment on behalf of the pilot, making him unfit to fly an aircraft.

    Knowing TSA procedure, he decided he could safely perform the required procedures to handle the weapon in the cockpit.

    His judgment proved false.

    Sorry, but we shouldn’t be allowing pilots who can’t make good decisions to be pilots. The reason they are paid to “babysit autopilot” is because of their sound decision making.

    He wasn’t forced to carry the firearm. He choose to, while knowing the risks. He thought he could handle it… he didn’t.

    The most important part of his job is risk assessment.

    I don’t buy the “it’s the TSA’s fault”. It would be if they forced all pilots to carry, but they made it volunteer. If someone comes forward and says “I can do it”, and can’t… that’s just poor judgment, nothing less, nothing more. Unfortunately for him, judgment is a key part of the job.

  17. @digitalgimpus: Where’s there proof of “poor judgment”? The guy had a gun go off by accident. Maybe this was no one’s fault at all.

  18. barty says:

    @LaurenKitsune: FAA mandated retirement age is 60 actually. Every so often it becomes the subject of argument between the FAA and the pilot’s unions but it hasn’t changed in the past 10 years (when an uncle of mine retired from Delta, quite a send off!).

    @Skrizzy: Trust me, there are no lack of pilots. If I thought I had a bat’s chance in hell of getting hired without knowing someone in the hiring chain at a major airline, I’d start flying again to get my ratings and ditch the traditional corporate America BS.

  19. Wormfather says:

    @digitalgimpus: 1 out of every 124 guns are faulty.

    And yes, i made that stat up.

  20. dwneylonsr says:

    The pilot is required to carry the pistol unlocked during flight. The pilot is required to lock the pistol prior to landing. The pilot is also required to lock the pistol every time he leaves the cockpit. The holster is designed in such a way that it’s not possible to see the position of the lock in relation to the trigger when inserting and removing the lock. This incident was caused more by the unworkable rules of the TSA than any incompetence on the part of the pilot. Please go here for more information.

  21. azntg says:

    The only consolation is at least nobody got hurt and that little piece of metal didn’t strike a person or an important electronic.

  22. Propaniac says:

    On my first read of the story, I was thinking that as long as he was acting in accordance with all safety procedures, I couldn’t see any reason to fire him. The information and links that have been posted indicating that the TSA’s procedures are inherently unsafe have only affirmed that opinion. It seems like if anything, the pilot made only the kind of slight physical error that anyone could make and that safety procedures are supposed to guard against.

  23. alhypo says:

    @StevieD: Safeties are crap! I only use firearms without them because I always, as I should, assume the gun can be discharged. Safeties make people relax because they think the gun cannot go off while they are engaged. This is true, but that does not mean the safety is actually engaged! People forget to engage them all the time.

    And you should never try to put on a trigger-lock while a gun is loaded (unless, of course, the FAA says it’s okay since they seem to know what they’re doing).

    I don’t understand why they don’t simply keep the weapons holstered for the entire flight, including takeoff and landing. Every instance where you must “mess” with the weapon is yet another opportunity for something to go wrong. If it just remains in the holster for the entire flight (except in the unlikely event they actually need to use it) there is very little that can go wrong.

  24. alhypo says:

    Also, they should be using hollow-point rounds to reduce the chance of any mechanical damage to the plane.

  25. Shadowfire says:

    Why would they require a padlock to be placed across the trigger? Why wouldn’t they just keep the gun in a normal conceal-carry holster, and when the plane is on the ground, lock it in a safe in the wall? Dumb.

  26. Shadowfire says:

    @alhypo: The air marshalls use frangible rounds, which pretty much disintegrate when they hit anything hard. That was the point of them.

  27. SuperJdynamite says:

    @azntg: “The only consolation is at least nobody got hurt and that little piece of metal didn’t strike a person or an important electronic.”

    Yeah, but it went through the fuselage. So much for the myth of non-piercing bullets on airplanes.

  28. nonzenze says:

    “Yeah, but it went through the fuselage. So much for the myth of non-piercing bullets on airplanes.” The myth was that this would cause a rapid decompression and crash the plane. In reality, if a bullet went through the fuselage of a plane in stable flight, it would take minutes to decompress (more than enough time to don masks) and there would be no noticeable loss of control.

  29. ChuckECheese says:

    @Skrizzy: This is just a guess, but I think the increase in the retirement age is because some of the airlines don’t have retirement funds anymore. Increasing the retirement age to 65 means retired pilots can begin collecting social security immediately.

  30. digitalgimpus says:

    @President Beeblebrox: The poor judgment is in the decision he could safely handle a firearm.

    I could easily say “I think my house can withstand a hurricane, so I’ll build on the beach”.

    If my house doesn’t… is it bad judgment? Or is it the hurricane’s fault?

    He did the risk analysis and was wrong.

    His job involves many lives (as any plane crash shows). One strike rule applies.

  31. alhypo says:

    @Shadowfire: Sorry, are we talking about air marshals? I thought this was about pilots.

    But that is exactly my point: the air marshals don’t have to lock away their firearms during takeoff, landing, and when they need to use the restroom, so why should the pilots?

    If they are qualified to carry the weapon during flight, they should have no trouble with takeoff and landing. Unless, of course, we think the pilots are not really qualified to carry firearms on a plane.

  32. kbarrett says:

    @Shadowfire: The TSA required this because a committee of bureaucrats is far more stupid than one.

    Yes, putting anything in the trigger guard of a loaded firearm, unless you intend to fire it, is insane.

    Yes, they required the pilot to do this while in the landing approach, a procedure that is insane.

    Yes, while making decisions collectively, TSA ‘crats are insane.

    Air Marshals aren’t required to fiddle with their firearms while they are loaded … so they do not have negligent discharges during flights … their procedures were written by law enforcement officers, not insane TSA ( ex-BATF ) bureaucrats.

  33. kbarrett says:

    @President Beeblebrox: There is no such thing as an accidental discharge … only negligent discharges. The only argument is who is negligent here … the pilot, or the idiot that created a weapon handling requirement that makes avoiding an ND. over the long term, impossible.

  34. dwneylonsr says:

    @digitalgimpus: He did the risk analysis and was wrong.

    No. The TSA did the risk analysis. He did what he was required to.

  35. digitalgimpus says:

    @dwneylonsr: He wasn’t required to carry that day, or ever. He decided he could do so safely (as required). He wasn’t able to.

    All 50 states say I can LEGALLY drink an drive… assuming my BAL doesn’t go above a magic number. It’s up to me to decide if I’ve had too much.

    Who’s wrong if I get busted for drunk driving? The state because they let me make a judgment that’s virtually impossible? You can’t tell your own BAL without the right hardware which 99.9997% of the population doesn’t have.

    Of course *I’m at fault*. If I’m not 100% positive I can handle driving and am below the legal limit, I shouldn’t drive at all under the influence.

    It’s no different. They gave him discretion. He failed.

  36. Shadowfire says:

    @alhypo: I meant to add that the pilots should be using these rounds too, but I hit submit too early because I am stupid. :P