A Real USAirways Misfire

Godzilla.jpgBesides an acquisition-from-hell, an unhappy workforce, and a giant rat outside of their Phoenix headquarters, USAirways has found another way to make negative news. This past Saturday one of their pilots accidentally discharged his weapon in the cockpit of a scheduled flight between Denver and Charlotte.
Understandably there was a flurry of opinion pieces chastising the airline, TSA, the pilot, and Charleton Heston, for allowing its pilots to legally carry a weapon onboard. I don’t want to get into a Second Amendment discussion here, but I was particularly amused by an airline pundit who wondered why the pilot had a bullet in the chamber to protect against the gun accidentally firing. If the weapon was a revolver then there really isn’t any choice but to have a bullet in the chamber, and a semi-automatic weapon without a bullet in the chamber is just a paperweight anyway, but I digress.
I’ve no idea what the Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) training program teaches, but I’d guess that they teach the weapon is to be loaded with a round in the chamber and the safety on while in the cockpit. If the weapon isn’t ready to use quickly then you might as well leave it home anyway. It is highly unlikely that a gun would go off without being handled by someone, so it’s safe to assume that on a routine flight, on a routine day, you might want to break up the routine by showing off your new gun. Add some PIO (Pilot Induced Oscillation), and there you have it. I’d love to read the transcript of the cockpit voice recorder:
“Watch out for the………[boom!!]”
“[Expletive Deleted]!!!”
“Think anybody heard that?”
The TSA doesn’t allow just any pilot to carry a weapon in the FFDO program; there is a psychological evaluation that must be passed by the pilot before beginning the training. I only know this because a friend of mine who works for a large air freight company flunked the psych evaluation; evidently he has “difficulty dealing with authority”, and was not allowed to participate in the FFDO program. I guess that doesn’t say much for my choice of friends, but that’s probably another story.
Personally I don’t have strong feelings one way or another about pilots carrying weapons on commercial flights. I guess if anyone has a gun onboard an airplane I’d rather it be a good guy than a bad guy; and it’s not like airport security is so perfect that they occasionally might miss a weapon in someone’s carry on bag. A gun on an airplane isn’t inherently dangerous unless the person who controls it has evil intentions, or, as in this case, becomes careless.
As a pilot myself I’ve always thought that having the airplane yoke in my hands would be far more effective a deterrent than a loaded gun. A couple of negative G pushovers that send the bad guy flying into top of the cabin would probably be pretty effective.

4 thoughts on “A Real USAirways Misfire

  1. Chuck

    I guess my feelings aren’t super strong either way myself. I do remember ALPA’s press release stating that FFDO types should be allowed to carry their guns around holstered, along the lines of police officers, and I always thought that was stupid, though. Part of the benefit of the program (to me) is that you never know whether or not there might be an FFDO up front, since they don’t get their gun out until the flight is underway.

  2. Loren Steffy

    Air passengers not entitled to clean toilets, court rules

    That’s right, folks, a New York appeals court struck down that state’s attempt at a passenger bill of rights. In upholding the rights of the effluent, the court ruled that only the federal government can require airlines to provide passengers…

  3. Godzilla

    I agree. Crew members wearing weapons on their belts in an airport makes it obvious who ISN’T carrying a weapon. The uncertainty of whether or not your flight has a Federal Air Marshall or an armed crew member is a valuable deterrent.

  4. Jerry

    Off the subject but I have to disagree with the comments regarding not having a round in the chamber. Carrying a double-action revolver hammer down on an empty chamber is common, since an exposed hammer could be forced into the firing pin. Doing so still leaves you with five ways to handle the problem, since revolvers have six chambers. Some people also carry automatics hammer down on an empty chamber. Racking the slide can be easier than releasing a safety, especially on models that move the firing pin with the safety lever. I used this method as a Marine and I was able to get rounds on target very quickly.
    Of course any safety measures are irrelevant when the shooter is an idiot.

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