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Thu, Dec 04, 2008

Report Says Pilots' Holsters May Lead To Accidental Gun Firings

Disgraced US Airways Pilot Calls Findings "Encouraging"

The Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General has reached an interesting conclusion after investigating the case of a pilot who accidentally discharged a gun in an airliner cockpit. CNN reports the IG found holsters used by thousands of armed airline pilots increase the chance of accidental discharge, and should be replaced.

The exact number of pilots participating in the Federal Flight Deck Officer program is unknown, but the Transportation Security Administration says it's in the thousands, and more than the number of Federal Air Marshals. Pilots undergo special training and screening, then are required to use special holsters issued by the government, and lock them anytime they leave the cockpit.

The IG's report states, "In a darkened cockpit, under the stress of meeting the operational needs of the aircraft, a pilot could inadvertently discharge the weapon by failing to ensure it is properly seated in the holster, securing the trigger lock and then pushing the weapon inward to secure the holster snap."

The report also notes the very act of locking the holster risks an inadvertent firing, if the pilot errs while inserting the padlock hasp into the holster.

The investigation was prompted by a March incident in which US Airways Captain James Langenhahn accidentally shot a hole through the side of an airliner on approach to land at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina. As ANN reported, the bullet missed hitting any critical systems and the plane landed safely, but Langenhahn was removed from the FFDO program, and fired by US Airways, where he'd worked for 24 years.

Langenhahn limited his comments at the advice of counsel, but called the report, "encouraging." He says he has an arbitration hearing in January as he fights to get his job back.

The TSA maintains there's nothing wrong with its holsters.

FMI: www.tsa.gov, www.dhs.gov/xoig

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