Things I am passionate about. Injustice, stupidity, intolerance, bigotry and small-mindedness. Oh and there might just be some humor to offset the whole thing.

Gunfire in the cockpit

Posted by morganwrites on March 31, 2008

When airline pilots lobbied Congress in 2002 for permission to carry guns, their fear was that hijackers might breach even the new reinforced cockpit doors installed after the 9/11 attacks. Now it appears there might be another danger: a gun accidentally discharging during flight, as happened Saturday in the cockpit of US Airways Flight 1536 on approach to the Charlotte airport.

The pilot’s gun went off, sending a bullet through the left side of the cockpit and out of the Airbus jetliner, according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The co-pilot was flying the plane at the time, and no one was injured. Thankfully. The flight carried 124 passengers and a crew of five.

To keep things in perspective, this was the first time a gun has discharged accidentally in flight since pilots began carrying them in 2003. Pilots get training before they can carry a gun, and stringent rules require that they keep the gun holstered during flight.

Further, government and aviation experts say it’s unlikely a single shot in the cockpit could cause a catastrophic accident. And that familiar movie scene, where a gunshot blasts a hole in a jet, sucking objects and passengers from the cabin and sending the jet plunging to earth? Well, it’s worth recalling that in 1988, a Boeing 737 landed safely after losing about one-third of its roof near Hawaii.

But the risk of a less spectacular tragedy is undeniable. Where there are guns, there’s a risk of accident. In 2005, the last year counted, there were 789 “unintentional firearm” deaths in the USA and 15,388 injuries — a rate of more than five for every 100,000 U.S. residents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On a plane, a stray bullet could hit a crewmember in the cockpit or pierce the wall between cockpit and cabin, the TSA concedes. Perhaps that’s why TSA and the airlines opposed letting pilots carry guns when the pilots and the National Rifle Association pushed the idea through Congress in 2002.

Regardless, the question now is how to minimize the risk.

The TSA, which says it is still investigating, has declined to reveal how the gun went off in the US Airways cockpit. Nor will US Airways talk about it. The longer they delay, the more likely the Hollywood image will linger in passengers’ minds.

For now, just this much is clear: Guns in holsters don’t just go off by themselves. Something went very wrong on US Airways 1536, and the flying public deserves an explanation.

Holy Shit.


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