A United Airlines flight attendant looking in a waste bin for a passenger’s missing ring on an international flight instead found 10 bullets. When the attendant alerted the captain, he flushed the bullets down the toilet.
The bizarre series of events aboard the flight from Houston to Munich a few weeks ago was first exposed by the Aviation Herald. The publication said that the pilot alerted German authorities about the presence of the bullets after he realised that the flight attendant would report the incident.
The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the airline are investigating.
Reports in the US have quoted a spokesperson for the airline conceding that the pilot should not have thrown the bullets in the toilet. The pilot is licenced to carry a gun on US domestic flights under a program intended to make commercial airliners harder to hijack. It was enacted after the ‘9/11’ terrorist attacks on New York in 2001.
While the pilot did not carry his firearm with him on the 23 June 2015 flight from Houston to Munich, he remembered during the flight that he had left ammunition for the gun in his bag.
He dumped the bullets in a cockpit waste bin before reaching Germany, but after the flight attendant found the ammo, he flushed the bullets down the toilet.
When the plane landed in Munich, the aircraft taxied to a remote area where passengers deplaned. Germany has strict gun laws, and authorities there ordered the waste tanks drained to find the bullets.
While the airline says the pilot is unlikely to be charged, the case brings to light procedures that many passengers are unaware of. How many people know that US pilots on domestic flights may be packing guns?
Written by Peter Needham