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The last time I traveled to The Land of Hope and Glory, British customs found a single .22 in the corner of my carry-on. They assured me it was a big deal. Legally, the cartridge was “part of a gun.” OK then. A little later the MP5-wielding security team told me “this happens all the time,” what with U.S. soldiers flying hither and yon. They let me go. After lots of palaver. So I completely understand the thought process of the United Airlines pilot flying to Munich last week who suddenly discovered he was carrying ammo on board . . .

The incident unfolded aboard a flight from Houston to Munich in June.

After forgetting he had the ammunition in his luggage, the pilot initially put the bullets in a garbage can, an official with knowledge of the investigation said.

A passenger saw the bullets in the trash, reported it to a flight attendant, who then told the captain, according to the official. That’s when the captain flushed the ammunition down a toilet.

The pilot reported what happened after landing in Munich, and German authorities retrieved the bullets from the plane, the official said.

United acknowledged this week that a pilot had “improperly disposed of ammunition during a flight last month from Houston to Munich.”

“We are reviewing the incident, and the pilot remains an employee,” the airline said in a statement.

According to, “eligible crew members are not allowed to bring firearms or ammunition when flying outside the United States or when not on duty.” Because no terrorist would ever attack an airplane flying out of the United States, right?

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  1. This is a pilot flushing ammo down a toilet..?

    How about keep your mouth shut and leave them secured in your bag? Or is that to complicated?

    • The video said he was afraid he’d be caught in German customs, like Robert was caught in UK customs.

    • A smart pilot would have gone to the lavatory, wiped his/her fingerprints off of the cartridges, wrapped them in a couple paper towels, and put them in the trash. When someone found them in the trash and reported them, he could have recovered them and turned them over to personnel at the Munich airport … with the explanation that a passenger found them and the pilot simply held onto them until the plane landed. I saw zero need to VOLUNTEER anything else.

        • I’ve never had to fly out of the U.S. Thank God. I wasn’t sure if pilots go through customs when they land. But still, in the toilet?

    • Problem is that if they are caught, more than anything else, he runs in to importation issues, I’d guess. Without looking it up, I’d guess there is paperwork that needs to be completed when moving arms into Germany/the EU. And ammunition is part of the class of arms.

      So, when it gets reported to the press or management, he’s worried about being branded an arms smuggler.

  2. So they’re okay with him flying a plane loaded with passengers and fuel into their country, but a handful of bullets is a problem?

    • Perhaps the British think that ISIS will fly a speeding bullet into the side of a skyscraper while shouting Alah Akbar.

    • Yes, that’s indeed the way Europeans think.

      I might add, the Germans especially seem comfortable with the attending recent consequences of this illogic. A co-pilot locks the pilot out of the cabin, noses the plane over and firewalls the throttles. But while the Europeans get their panties into a granny knot over guns, they merely tut-tut over homicidal people in positions of responsibility with “Well, what can you do?”

      This merely shows yet again the perspicuity of my ancestors in leaving behind the whole of Europe, and in so doing, turning their backs on the European inbred, cousin-humping leadership, moral cowardice and self-serving solipsism.

      The problem for we Americans is that there is a cohort of America that now thinks the same way – especially among the Jewish and Catholic population. One need only crack open a copy of “intellectual” magazines on the left or right, or listen to NPR for a couple of hours to observe this.

      • You’re statement about the discussion in Germany after the Germanwings incident over the alps is just plain arrogant and wrong. Normally I like you’re comments on guns really much, but this one is just plain wrong. We the people, talk shows, doctors, the Lufthansa (mother company of Germanwings), pilots, pilot and crew unions, politicians and everybody else who thought he or she had something substantial to say said something. You should also know that the co-pilot was on sick leave ordered by his doctor but didn’t give notice to his company of this fact. It was also known that he had mental problems, but the last medical thingy he had to attend cleared him, so why should they worry? It is the same with your spreekillers and how they get guns, you can’t just look people in their heads and that will always be a problem at least in a real free society.

        • To clarify: I don’t mean that it is an actual problem that you don’t have acces to peoples minds. I can’t really explain it in English because i think that phrase is more or less a literal translation from a German phrase.

    • Well if the pilot threw the bullet out of a speeding plane, it might almost seem like he is firing it…


  4. That’s when the captain
    flushed the ammunition down a toilet. The pilot reported what
    happened after landing in
    Munich, and German authorities
    retrieved the bullets from the
    plane, the official said.

    Did they draw straws or did they make the new guy sift through the muck?

    • I would say the new guy. Like a German saying states:”Lehrjahre sind keine Herrenjahre” (Years as an apprentice are not the ones you decide what to do, that should cover it roughly) 😀

  5. SWAT guys retrieved the ammunition.

    Oh, in the airline industry, SWAT refers to Sh*t, Water, and Trash, as in the folks who service the airplanes….

  6. I don’t get it.

    There’s no security check getting OFF the plane. He could have just held onto it and disposed of the stuff at the little trashcan that’s there right next to the skybridge controls the second he stepped off.

    • Until CUSTOMS scans your bag upon exit…. Yes, Customs and Immigration are the first things you go through EVERY time you enter a foreign country….

      • Um, you need to get off of the plane first. When we went through Frankfort last year, we walked quite a distance to get to Customs. There were numerous trash bins enroute.

        • Nope, they scan (x-ray) all your bags as you enter most foreign countries. Even the flight crew… I know. As for trash bins on the way to customs, perhaps – until there aren’t any…

  7. I’m totally ignorant of laws in other countries, but what if he declared and then relinquish the ammo when he landed? Then again, United would probably fire him. Just curious, carry on.

    • I read the German law on that, he had to declare the ammo before starting in the US so he had committed a crime, if customs controlled him and found it.

  8. What a non-issue being blown out of all proportion. Authorities just love their drama though.

    • Government only deals with over blown non-issues. All real issues are dealt with by people living in the real world and having to deal with the consequences of their actions.

    • It’s against German law to import or to transport through Germany without the proper paperwork. So that the pilot was scared is at least understandable.

  9. As a Naval Aircrewman, I knew of dozens of places on the mighty P-3 Orion where one could place items that may have been a bit *ahem* questionable, Customs-wise. And none of them involved a toilet.

    • yeah, I was thinking the same thing. Planes, even little ones, have lots of nooks and crannies and are generally festooned with inspection hatches and ports.

      • Especially aircraft like the P-3, with many, many racks of electronic gear with quick-release latches so equipment can be rapidly changed out.

  10. So much for it being a federal offense to put anything other than waste of toilet tissue in the loo.

    If they were over New Jersey at the time, this guy would be facing felony charges. They’d probably even come up with some special indictment for poison bullets (“blue-tip” ammo, anyone?).

  11. Some of these laws are stupid as well as some of the people that enforce them. How about some common sense with this kind of thing? Perhaps a locked steel box on the plane when they discover something like this ? Or report the error to Customs when you land and turn the ammo over to them. How come they make something that could be SO SIMPLE, so damned complicated. Ridiculous!

    • Better yet. Why not just hand them over to a sky marshall nor dont they fly on international flights?

      • You never know where the Air Marshals are….. seriously, they don’t announce their presence….

      • Exactly what I was thinking. What do the air marshalls do with their gun and ammo when they land in another country? You would think the pilot could follow the same process.

        • As it happens, I just spent some time with an old Navy buddy who is a captain with one of the major US airlines, flying international routes. We talked about this. The captain of the plane does know who all the Air Marshals are on each flight. They are required to check in with the captain before flight, although the public does not see that happen.

          The procedure for Air Marshals and their guns are now covered by international agreements for every country US airlines fly to. Each country has slightly different procedures, but generally it goes something like this: Each country has a designated authority for taking charge of the weapons. It may be the airport police. Interestingly, in the Netherlands it is the Royal Dutch Marines. The Marshals meet a member of the designated authority at a designated place at each airport and turn over the guns to be locked in storage. The Marshals to their layover and the process works in reverse before the return flight.

    • There are no ‘Amnesty Boxes,’ sorry. Should have been take care of before initial security screening at the airport you departed from….

  12. I realize this won’t “fly” on international flights, where the dear leaders of repressed countries believe guns exist only in the Ninth Circle of Hell, but US flights should allow any and all passengers to carry unloaded guns and ammo in carry on bags. Unloaded guns simply because of the possibility of discharge if a bag jam packed with stuff and a loaded bun is jostled around and something engages the trigger. And you can’t carry the gun on your hip because of narrow seats. Other than that, what’s the risk?

    • ” Other than that, what’s the risk?”

      A suicidal passenger?

      Someone who who wishes to make a very dramatic political point?

      Dude, you can’t be serious with that comment…

      • Tsa shouldn’t exist. All citizens should be able to OC or CCW their pistols. Doesn’t matter, I don’t fly.

      • “A suicidal passenger?” Really? That’s what you’re afraid of in life? People buying plane tickets just go off themselves mid air? “Political point?” Oh you mean like hijackers? They would have more to think about if everyone else might have a gun too, wouldn’t they?
        Your reasoning can’t be serious…

  13. The questions are; why wasn’t this ammo found at screening at departure airport? Did he not go through screening? If so, why not?

  14. Hmmm…I’m a member of a certain FB gun thing and some guy CLAIMS he dropped a 40S&W bullet from his front pocket that exploded when it hit the floor-from 4-5 feet. And I called BS…what damage will booo-lets do at 35000feet?

    • That is BS and can be proven so with simple physics. But even so, a cartridge going off outside of a chamber is virtually harmless due to the force going in all directions. The bullet will not go flying because the casing is lighter. The casing will rupture and go flying, but can’t do much, if any, damage to humans or aircraft.

  15. Maybe he threw the cartridges into the toilet. But maybe he swallowed them the day before.

  16. There’s nothing more dangerous than a responsible lawful skilled scrutinized on-duty person.

    • Rumor has it the passenger was Samuel L. Jackson . He reportedly excited the lavatory and shouted:

      “I have HAD IT with these muthafukin bullets on this muthafukin plane!”

      That’s when things escalated.

  17. All these comments and no one could come up with a story about they were being stored for when the Sh*t Hits the Fan? 🙂

  18. This was obviously a crappy solution. The pilot probably didn’t give a crap. I wonder who’s job it is to fish bullets out of the crapper? Talk about a s*itty job…

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