DALLAS (TheBlaze/AP) — United Airlines confirmed and said it is investigating a situation regarding a captain who threw bullets into a plane’s trash bin, which was accessible to passengers, and then later flushed them down a toilet on board a flight he was piloting to Germany.
United spokeswoman Karen May said that the pilot should not have thrown the bullets in the toilet. She said the pilot is allowed to carry a gun on domestic flights under a post-9/11 federal program intended to make planes harder to hijack. The pilot did not take his gun on the June 23 international flight from Houston to Munich, she said, but he realized during the flight that he had left ammunition in his bag.
The pilot dumped the bullets before reaching Germany, which has strict gun laws.
“He did incorrectly dispose of the ammunition,” May said, “but it is likely that the pilot is not going to face any criminal charges.”
A Transportation Security Administration spokesman confirmed that the agency is also investigating but declined to say more. The Federal Aviation Administration and aviation authorities in Munich did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
United declined to name the pilot. He is likely to be very experienced – it takes many years of seniority for pilots to become captains on international flights for major U.S. airlines.
May said the pilot was still employed by United, but she declined to say whether he had been grounded.
“We are investigating,” she said. “I can’t give any details about his status other than he is still with us.”
The incident was first reported by the Aviation Herald, which said that a flight attendant looking for a passenger’s missing ring found 10 bullets in a waste bin and alerted the captain. He flushed the bullets down the toilet and alerted German authorities when he realized that the flight attendant would report the incident, according to the Herald.
Here are more details as reported by the Herald (emphasis added):
A source had told The Aviation Herald that the aircraft was enroute, when the captain discovered that he was still carrying ammunition consisting of 10 bullets in his luggage, the ammunition not being permitted to be taken into Germany. The captain therefore decided to get rid of the ammunition and disposed of the ammunication into a waste bin. “Unfortunately” a passenger lost her ring in flight, the flight attendants assisted in the search for the lost ring and also checked the waste bins. A flight attendant thus discovered the bullets, dutifully brought and reported the bullets to the captain, who now decided to ultimately get rid of the bullets and dumped them down the toilet. Later the flight attendant inquired again about the bullets, the captain realized that she would file a report, explained the situation to her and informed ground. The aircraft was taken to a remote parking position after landing, airport fire fighters used protective suits while emptying and filtering the waste tanks, recovered 6 bullets in that search, Germany’s Luftfahrtbundesamt (LBA) grounded the aircraft. A second search discovered the remaining 4 bullets, too, and the aircraft was able to depart for its return flight with a delay of 4 hours.
After landing in Munich, the plane taxied to a remote area where passengers got off and the waste tanks were emptied to find the bullets.
Front page image via ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock.com.