US Airways pilot's gun went off as he was stowing weapon

According to a report by Charlotte airport police, a bullet that passed through the fuselage of US Airways Flight 1536 from Denver on Saturday was fired by the aircraft's captain as he “was stowing his weapon.” The captain was carrying a 13-shot Heckler & Koch USP .40-caliber pistol as part of the Federal Flight Deck Officer program run by the federal Transportation Security Administration.

That program has very detailed procedures for handling and transporting firearms, said Richard Bloom, a professor who teaches aviation security at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Although he didn’t know the details of Saturday’s incident, Bloom said there are a few possible explanations for gun being fired accidentally: impairment by alcohol, drugs or medication, some kind of distraction, or “somebody was just messing around.” “There’s extremely little room for misunderstanding,” he said. “The procedures and so clear and so specifically described.”

TSA officials and US Airways continued to withhold the pilot’s name Tuesday, citing the investigation. The airline has grounded the pilot without pay. The aircraft remained out of service. The bullet, the police report revealed, penetrated the left side of the cockpit and went through the A319's fuselage. Air safety experts said most planes can withstand such a breach and continue flying normally.

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