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Pilot may have mishandled pistol that went off in-flight

March 26, 2008|From the Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The pilot of a US Airways plane may have been mishandling a firearm when it went off in-flight over the weekend, piercing the cockpit wall, a federal air marshal said Tuesday.

The jet landed safely, and airline officials said the accidental discharge did not endanger the 124 passengers and five crew members. But air safety experts said the hole, visible in photos obtained by the Associated Press, could have caused the plane to rapidly depressurize had it been in a window at a higher altitude.

All people eligible to carry guns in the cockpit have the same weapon, a .40-caliber semiautomatic Heckler & Koch universal self-loading pistol.

"This is an extremely safe and reliable weapon," said Greg Alter of the Federal Air Marshal Service. "It's not going to discharge on its own, is the bottom line."

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