Partner of a Pilot
The Candid Diary of an Airline Pilot’s Girlfriend

Pilot’s gun fired on US Airways

Link to news story

I just found this news story today:

The Associated Press • March 24, 2008 

“A gun belonging to the pilot of a US Airways plane discharged as the aircraft was on approach to land in North Carolina over the weekend, the first time a weapon issued under a federal program to arm pilots was fired, authorities said today.

The “accidental discharge” Saturday aboard Flight 1536 from Denver to Charlotte did not pose a danger to the aircraft or the 124 passengers, two pilots and three flight attendants aboard, said Greg Alter of the Federal Air Marshal Service.

“We know that there was never any danger to the aircraft or to the occupants on board,” Alter said.

The firing is the first time a pilot’s weapon has been fired on a plane under a program created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to allow pilots, for example, to use a firearm to defend against any act of air piracy or criminal violence, he said.

The Transportation Security Administration is investigating how the gun discharged and is being assisted by the Air Marshal Service, Alter said.”

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Mike Fergus said his agency is also investigating to make sure that the plane is safe. The aircraft has been removed from service, the airline said.”

I knew that air marshals existed, but I hadn’t realised that commercial pilots in the US were also able to carry guns! I don’t think it is the case in the UK-certainly not with any of the pilots that we know. I asked Bf how he would feel about carrying one-he said he wouldn’t want to carry a gun; and I don’t blame him a bit.

It’s not as though pilots are inconspicuous walking around in their uniform; and terrorists don’t exactly wear high-visibility jackets or uniforms to identify themselves-I would feel like a walking armory if I were a pilot; and knew that people watching me knew I could potentially be carrying a weapon that would be useful to them.  I just think that with security becoming ever tighter in the airport, perhaps a pilot carrying a loaded weapon (if indeed they carry them with them prior to getting on board the plane) could be viewed as a weak link to be preyed upon by terrorists. 

I am sure the pilots in question receive great training to help aid them in a confrontational situation, but it’s a situation I’d rather not be placed in in the first place! I think it is so sad that things have come to a stage where professional pilots have to carry a weapon. Apparently the number is set to rise too:

It is currently estimated that 9,500 United States airline pilots are authorized to carry guns in the cockpit. That number is projected to grow to around 15,000 in the next three year according to a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) projection. In a 3,500-page public budget document, the Homeland Security Department disclosed that 10.8% of eligible people have gone through training and been authorized to carry handguns. The Federal Air Marshal (FAM) Service, which oversees the program to arm pilots, said that 85,000 to 90,000 pilots and other flight officers are eligible to carry handguns. FAM spokesman Nelson Minerly said he “can’t object” to a conclusion that about 9,500 pilots are armed, but would not confirm the number, saying it is confidential. (

However, I guess on the positive side of this; it’s nice that pilots are given some credibility and treated with trust by security-over here, in the UK, pilots cannot even carry a bottle of water through security!

Just a quick addition to this post on a less serious note. I found this tongue in cheek you tube video about pilots carrying guns


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