Pilot’s gun discharges on US Airways flight

Pilot’s gun discharges on US Airways flight 12:14 PM | Local News | News for Charlotte, North Carolina | WCNC.com | Top Stories

CHARLOTTE, N.C.– A gun carried by a US Airways pilot accidentally discharged during a flight from Denver to Charlotte Saturday, according to a statement released by the airline.

First, I’m betting they had to take the plane out of service to clean up the cockpit.

Accidental discharges (mistakes in weapons handling and safety) (which is not “the gun just went off”: that doesn’t occur) happen eventually to everyone who handles weapons enough. The very very experienced range masters where I go will confess to accidental discharges, and do so to educate how their mistakes occurred and the lessons they learned. (These lessons invariably wind up being ‘get your finger off the trigger, and don’t let yourself get distracted’).

Most AD’s are non-events in the permanent-damage category, though I can certainly see how the cockpit of an aircraft would provide dozens of chances at a bad outcome. I wonder if the TSA and the airlines have a procedure that covers this? Probably it is ‘land safely, let’s talk about it on the ground’.

I was aware of the cockpit armed pilot program (or whatever its Orwellian name is), and thought it a good idea. Given the frequency of AD’s I still think it’s a good idea, but confess I hadn’t given weapons handling accidents much thought. Now I will, and here’s something else to get the flying public a little more anxious.

Update: Pilot suspended, from the armed flight deck officer program, and from fight status.


Comments

  1. Our large, profit-making governmental bureaucracies use teachable moments to their fullest these days? You’re certain that now they won’t go to biometric pistols to prevent this?

    -SSG J

  2. Maybe condition 3 vs condition 1 in the future?

  3. That would seem pretty reasonable, but I don’t know their protocols.

    It also occurs to me that they might be using ratshot loads to minimize fuselage penetration, but I have no knowledge.

  4. Nurse 1961 says:

    It isn’t the first pilot to have his gun go off by accident. But they are usually on the ground when it happens.

  5. TheNewGuy says:

    ADs are virtually a statistical certainty, given enough people handling enough guns… hence the admonition to always keep it pointed in a safe direction.

    Nothing to see here.

  6. Even if the aircrew was familiar enough with the innards of the aircraft to know which direction was “safe”, I have a hard time believing they’d have the ability to point the gun in that direction before an AD. On a range, “safe” is a bit more obvious.

    It makes more sense to me to lock the cockpit door before flight, train the cabin crew to disarm and immobilize people, and have random air marshals watch the rabble. Nothing against guns; I just don’t see them being very useful in a cockpit compared to the danger they pose through accident and misuse.

  7. Lady Doc says:

    Nothing against guns; I just don’t see them being very useful in a cockpit compared to the danger they pose through accident and misuse.

    I have some inside knowledge of the system that arms pilots on commercial flights. Pilots are screened before they are allowed into the program. The training is extensive, requires frequent refresher courses and includes more than just weapon education.

    Personally, I do not think that this is the ultimate answer to air safety. (Undressing and unpacking carry-ons at security is definitely not the answer! But that is another rant.) I do believe that it is a reasonable measure to take, especially after I became aware of the training involved. This program is several years old now and has an excellent safety record. The pilots involved are very serious about their responsibilities and adamantly support arming the cockpit crew as a very useful determent to a hostile take over of the flight deck.

  8. hmmm. Is that what they’re called in the navy/marines? “Accidental Discharge”? In the Army we call them “Negligent Discharge”, placing the blame squarely where it belongs, on the shooter.

    [GruntDoc: Dunno, so far as I know it's never happened in the Sea Services. Heh.]

  9. May be more to this story. Stupid procedures lead to stupid mistakes.

    http://www.crimefilenews.com/2007/12/tsa-arrogance-threatens-safety-of-air.html

  10. Jim in Texas says:

    Nothing against guns; I just don’t see them being very useful in a cockpit compared to the danger they pose through accident and misuse.”

    I won’t argue the point. I have spoken with pilots who have such a visceral fear of being slaughtered in their seats after having heard the 9/11 cockpit recordings that carrying firearms is their safety blanket.

    As for damage resulting from an AD, while I don’t have any first hand info, I was involved in the very early “Sky Marshal” program in the early 70’s that initially used military members while civilians were being trained. The early marshals were issued Glaser safety Slugs with the rather bold claim that there was no danger of ricochets to other passengers or direct equipment strikes.

    I suspect that Glaser, or similar rounds, are mandatory.

    http://www.dakotaammo.net/products/glaser/glaser.htm

    Many years later I conducted a shooting investigation where the victim was killed with a Glaser round. The effectiveness of that round impressed me so much that I still carry Glaser rounds to this day.

  11. I won’t argue the point. I have spoken with pilots who have such a visceral fear of being slaughtered in their seats after having heard the 9/11 cockpit recordings that carrying firearms is their safety blanket.

    If the pilots’ increased comfort level reduces flight risk more than any increase due to firearms on board, I have no argument.

    Thinking about this a little deeper, I expect that any damage done by an AD would be within the design basis of the aircraft (it’d have to be.) I confess ignorance about how the FAA and commercial airline industry does its risk analysis but I suspect it’s as thorough and convoluted as what I did in the nuclear industry. Things will break, there will be procedures to deal with it, and someone makes a judgment call as to what problems are going to be defended against with redundancy, safety systems, training, procedure, inspections, etc.

    I imagined they’d have to be using Glaser rounds or something equivalent. I own an SKS and it stays safely locked in the closet unless I’m carting it out to a range. I don’t fool myself that it’s for home defense; the 7.62x39mm round is not for indoor use and I’m sure my neighbors would not be pleased if one of those went wandering through their drywall.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] here’s what happened, as a follow up to the initial post: Mere Rhetoric: TSA’s Idiotic Pilot Handgun Regulations Kept Classified, End With Accidental [...]