A Nurse with a Gun

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Gunfire Over Charlotte

It seems the first shot by an armed airline pilot has been fired.......A negligent discharge through the fuselage of an A319 Airbus. According to the MSM, a US Airways pilot reportedly may have been mishandling his sidearm, resulting in a tell tale puncture from within the cockpit to the airspace outside. The so called accident occurred Saturday over Charlotte, North Carolina, aboard Flight 1536 from Denver to Charlotte, as the plane was at about 8,000 feet making it's approach to land. According to investigators, the 124 passengers and five crew members were not placed at risk.

What the Hell?!!! The driver of an air taxi is jacking with his gun in the cockpit and nobody is at risk? The dumbass pulls the trigger and puts a bullet through the aluminum skin of the airborne bird and nobody is at risk? The last time I checked Charlotte North Carolina had a few people on the ground. Perhaps these investigators need to reconsider the law of gravity. The last time I checked, bullets do not disappear once fired, they do not enter Earth's orbit, they do not incinerate on reentry, and they have a disconcerting tendency to continue to travel until their energy is expended or they strike an object they can not penetrate.

So, how do we know said knucklehead was monkeying with his gun rather than doing his job landing his aircraft? All people eligible to carry guns in the cockpit carry the same weapon, the .40S&W H&K USP. The HK USP is not a pistol known for popping off rounds while holstered. As a matter of fact, the HK USP is a handgun known for it's safety and reliability. It has a thumb safety, and is a double action pistol which can be carried cocked and locked if desired. It is doubtful that the pilot carried the USP in this fashion though. Few people who carry a USP take advantage of the C&L option. In fact, the C&L option may not have even been present on the HK variant he carried. HK USPs Click to enlargeIn double action, the pistol has a trigger pull that is long, heavy and gritty. Regardless, the sidearm has a track record of keeping it's bullets safely inside the gun, and "Aw shucks" from never being uttered. The only way for this pistol to "just go off" is for the man who carries it to pull the trigger. Sorry Mr. Pilot sir.........you may fool the gun ignorant suits in the board room, but you ain't fooling anyone who knows the gun you were dinking around with.

"The jet will be grounded at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport for several more days as repairs are made. The Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday it won't be involved in looking at why the gun went off but will investigate to make sure the plane is safe before it returns to service.

'We want to make sure there was no structural damage and no systems on board were damaged by the bullet,' said FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said. 'We want to take a look at the aircraft to make sure it's in an air-worthy condition.'"

Yeah? Well what about the man who pulled the trigger of the gun? Shouldn't he be grounded? How about rescinding his permission to tote a hogleg on an aircraft? Will someone please take away his right to endanger lives with a gun? Do you really think he's professino enuff? And if you think he is, then why is not everybody else?

More information here and here.

Incident Report (pdf file)

Michael Bane's thoughts.

Hattip to The Pawnbroker



Blogger Sevesteen said...

This might not have been a result of a boneheaded move. The pilots are required to have a specific Galco holster with a provision for a lock through the trigger guard. They are required to lock it up when they leave the cockpit. Galco quite understandably doesn't recommend messing with a lock through the trigger guard on a loaded gun.

12:49 AM  
Anonymous bob@thenest said...

Regardless of the firearm-specifics, what happened to the sterile cockpit below 10,000 feet -- no conversation or activity not related to flying the plane as a matter of safety during a critical phase of flight?

Seems a hell of a time to be doing ANYTHING with a firearm. I wonder if this was a breach of protocol in that sense or if the protocol needs to be changed.

2:20 AM  
Anonymous Will said...

Mythbusters did an episode on falling bullets. They only retain an ability to kill if following a ballistic trajectory, in other words, an arc. Otherwise, they end up falling sideways at their terminal velocity. IIRC, that was measured at about 100mph. Give you a nice lump on your noggin.
BTW, punching a hole in a plane is no big deal (unless you hit something important, like a hydraulic line-and they have redundancy). The movie scene where the side of the plane blows out is pure Hollywood. For that matter, the pressure loss from a bullet hole is well within the capabilities of the air compressors used to maintain comfortable breathing while at altitude. I expect that the FAA is just doing what govt depts do.

2:22 AM  
Anonymous angus lincoln said...

If there were cockpit surveillance cameras, inappropriate behavior in the cockpit would be minimized. Oh my God! Did I say that out loud?

7:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

More details here:


7:37 AM  
Blogger Laughingdog said...


8:43 AM  
Anonymous homebru said...

Given the fact that there are TWO rated pilots in the cockpit of most commercial airliners, and

given the fact that those TWO pilots take turns performing the takeoff and landing duties, then

it does not seem unlikely that the pilot not on the controls began to clean up his side of the cockpit and stow his in-flight gear (maps, etc.) back in his carry-on (brief case, "brain bag").

If TSA rules (having the force of law) require that a pilot secure his pistol by futzing with the trigger / trigger guard, all that is required to complete the scene is that one ask oneself "Have you ever felt a bump of turbulence while descending from 10,000 feet?"

I expect that additional "rules" will be enacted requiring that cockpit weapons be locked / unlocked on the ground in a parked aircraft with all engines off. Although an accidental discharge there would seem more likely to result in damage.

8:52 AM  
Anonymous cranky said...

Lots of information about the padlocked holster here: http://www.crimefilenews.com/2008/03/gun-accident-in-airliner-cockpit-was.html

9:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep, looks like he was trying to sotw the weapon....

7:36 PM  
Blogger KD5NRH said...

He was shooting at the man on the wing!

But since he saw what happened to Shatner (and Lithgow, for that matter) he made up the ND story to cover it up.

8:40 AM  

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