Friday, March 28, 2008

Details released on jetliner gunshot

Holster Blamed For Mishap

"The US Airways captain whose gun discharged in the cockpit of a Charlotte-bound flight Saturday is a former Air Force pilot who lives in Pittsburgh.

The pilot, James Langenhahn, declined to discuss the shooting Thursday night. "As much as I'd like to talk about it," he told the Observer, "I can't right now."

His name was released, apparently inadvertently, after the Observer questioned the government's concealment of facts on a police report of the incident.

The in-flight shooting was the first such incident since pilots began carrying guns after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Langenhahn, 55, is part of the Federal Flight Deck Officer program run by the Transportation Security Administration. He was stowing the 13-shot, .40-caliber pistol when it discharged -- piercing the cockpit wall and fuselage -- while the plane was preparing to land in Charlotte late Saturday morning, according to the report.

Other details released Thursday also indicate that the gun's holster is being investigated in the shooting. Some pilots have criticized the locking holster system for the Heckler & Koch USP pistol as inappropriate for the program that arms pilots. Transportation Security Administration procedures require a pilot to transfer the gun and holster from his flight bag to his belt multiple times during a flight, pilots said in interviews.

The holster system is designed with a lock that goes behind the trigger, preventing the gun from firing. But some pilots say that when the gun isn't snapped tightly into the holster, or becomes loose during transfers, the lock can end up in front of the trigger.

David Mackett, a pilot who is president of the Airline Pilots Security Alliance, said he supports the arming of pilots. But he said the combination of the current gun-and-holster system and the requirement that pilots frequently remove the gun when not in the cockpit is "just a recipe for disaster."

"The locking holster was designed to be used to lock a gun away at the end of the day," said Mackett, who is not in the Federal Flight Deck Officer program. "You need to put the firearm on an officer where he can control it and not touch it."

I'm unaware of what brand of holster they're using to carry the H&K USP

What I am aware of is the fact that locking holsters do not become "loose during transfers" as that would defeat the very reason for their existence. Were such a problem to be recognized as actually happening on anything resembling a regular basis, the holster manufacturer would soon be out of business and/or the recipient of some hefty lawsuits. It's another matter entirely if the guns aren't being firmly snapped in, but none of this should be difficult for trained personnel to do so I remain at a loss to account for the negligent discharge.

8000 pilots carrying for several years with only one whoops-go-bang isn't anything to go liberal-whiny about, but it'd be good to know the full story.

PS: The included pic is of the .45 ACP varietal.

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