When you’re flying a plane, there are a ton of things to worry about. Like airspeed, altitude, heading, fuel load and consumption rate, and keeping the plane from falling out of the sky. But the one thing that pilots don’t generally worry about is getting shot while flying at 1,200 feet above the ground.

Let me set the scene. Its nearly midnight, as a pilot and his (student pilot) girlfriend (girl above — Bill Murray was not involved) are circling the city of Jacksonville, Florida. They’re planning on watching the fireworks from the air, a romantic (and expensive) way to spend a memorable new years. But then, suddenly, disaster.

Well we’re doing a wide two mile circle at 1,200′ around downtown where they have a huge fireworks display on the river. I’m flying slow with 10 degrees of flaps out at about 65mph and waiting for midnight when I heard a loud POP and the feeling of being hit by shattered material. I flinch as I throw my head down between the seats and look up at Alpha, who is OK but wide-eyed. I’ve had a Rosen visor break on me once so that’s what immediately came to mind. I scanned the windshield from right to left, checked the visors, and then looked at my window. There was a bullet hole about four inches in front of my shoulder! As I’m telling Alpha that we were just shot at, I got that sick feeling of warm blood running down my neck, lots of it.

The man is okay and managed to land the plane safely, but required medical attention before the night was out. A gash along his scalp is the worst of the damage, but a few inches to either side and things would have taken a most decidedly terrifying turn for the worse.

I can imagine it now. You’re still learning to fly, you’re up at night where the visibility is low, and suddenly your instructor / boyfriend dies. Now you have to land the plane yourself without any help or else you both die. It has been done before, a husband and wife were flying a small plane not too long ago when the husband died of a heart attack mid-flight, but still not the way I would want to ring in the new year.

The current speculation is that the round was fired unaimed into the air by someone on the ground celebrating the new year.

Moral of the story: NEVER fire your gun in the air. You already knew that, but the point bears repeating.

[source]

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42 Responses to Pilot Shot While Flying on New Years

  1. What happened was awful, but he was flying 1200 feet over the redneck part of Florida…On new year’s day…At the time the fireworks were a burstin.

    Just sayin’

  2. I have lived in many cities around the USA especially in my yoot.

    There are several different ethnic groups who insist on shooting in the air as the clock turns midnight. The pop-pop-pop you often hear at midnight is not always fireworks. I cannot remember the city, but I remember living in a location where there used to be PSA announcements leading up to new years in both english and spanish asking people not to use guns to shoot into the air in celebration. I am willing to bet it happens around 4th of July as well but I don’t know of an incident.

    Its not unusual for this to happen in Bridgeport, CT and the police ignore it unless someone gets hurt. My first firearm instructor who taught my basic pistol class had a permenant limp from being hit by one of these celebration bullets that apparently was shot across a river and hit him in the kitchen of his families home when he was about 15yrs old.

    Sadly, it is probably a common occurance every year but first I have read a pilot in the air being hit.

    Glad to read that the pilot is doing well.

    • I worked as a police dispatcher in a metro Atlanta agency. On New Year’s Eve it was standard procedure for the officers to be instructed to pull their patrol cars under overpasses at the midnight hour.

  3. And yet, no mention of this extraordinary event in the news. Skeptical. Is Reddit the only source for this?

  4. My guess is it was deliberate, not inadvertent. From the ground, any aircraft, even a small one, flying at 1200 feet seems low. Not something you wouldn’t notice if you were just randomly firing a gun into the air. Unless you’re blitzed to the gills and completely oblivious, which is a distinct possibility on New Years. But just because it’s an almost impossible shot if you’re actually trying to hit the aircraft, doesn’t mean one of the shots won’t hit it.

    Any pistol round would lose most of its energy at 1200 ft. straight up but the skin of a light aircraft is just thin aluminum.

    • Maybe they thought the GUBERMENTS were ringing in the new year with drones overhead (with the Obama administration that doesn’t sound too far fetched!) and decided they wanted to test their drone shooting weapons? I know I’d like to test my drone guns out on a real target too!

  5. Hate to be this guy but. . . she is WAY to hot for him (unless it’s Bill Murray), he must be one hell of a “pilot”. Must have quite the “aircraft”, and be good at workin’ that “yoke”, eh? EH? get it? I’m talking about his genitals!

    Damn i’m funny.

  6. So it is decided. That is Bill Murray, end of discussion.

    People of America, please don’t shoot Bill Murray in his airplane. It isn’t right.

  7. Sorry to rain on everyone’s parade.

    The picture with the attractive blonde? Definitely shows Bill Murray, definitely shows the pilot’s girlfriend.

    The pilot, however, is not Bill Murray.

    How did I accomplish this astounding feat of investigative journalism? Um, I clicked on the link the the source article, then I clicked on the link to the photo album:

    http://imgur.com/a/ast37#0

    It’s pretty clear from the pictures that the actual pilot is NOT Bill Murray.

    • one trip to your general practitioner.
      get a referral
      goto the urologist
      have meeting, where you talk about if you really want to shoot blanks
      schedule another office visit
      go back to urologist and he’ll give you the shooting blanks procedure
      watch tv on couch for 3 days with ice on your lap.
      think about how you’re going to pay the $2,500 deductible

      its easier to get blanks than get an NFA item though.

  8. Wow, what are the odds? Not zero apparently.

    It must have been one of those “culturally diverse” celebrations that you hear so much about in some parts of the world.

    • In my youth West Virginia was as culturely undiverse as you were likely to see and all the biggies, New Years and 4th of july especially, were rung in with gunfire.

      I can remember standing in the snow on December 31st at 11.59 with a loaded .30-30 in a volley line with my uncle’s and cousins. My only defense was my age, I was 12. The adults should have known better.

      Upstanding church going white men, one and all.

  9. It wasn’t some Florida yahoo shooting into the air. What ha’ happened was that a Jacksonville cop got into a shootout, but there weren’t any innocent bystanders on the ground and he needed to fill his quota before the end of the year.

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