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RF and I were discussing a machine gun attack on Pakistani airliner. RF believed the incident proves that airplane carry is relatively safe. More than that, he believes that concealed carry on an airplane is A-OK. Or, rather, should be an A-OK thing to do. While I understand his point about Americans’ gun rights and agree with him on an ideological level, I can’t agree on a practical basis. I think there are one or two rather important points that Robert was ignoring that are muy importante when considering this issue, points that make my own point of view almost completely the opposite of his . . .

I’m not yet a pilot, though if everything goes well I should be performing my first solo around the time that this post goes live. But I’ve already passed the FAA written exam, have more time behind the stick than Robert, and I think that gives me a little more insight into the world of aviation. Based on just a few things I’ve learned in my short 20 hours in the cockpit (and countless hours buried in the FAR AIM), I can think of a couple very good reasons why guns on airplanes for poorly-trained individuals is a bad idea.

If plane carry is allowed, there will eventually be a negligent discharge. The Gods of probability virtually demand that it happens at some point. And I have three very good reasons why it is in my best interest (as well as the rest of the flying public) to make sure to minimize the probability of that round going off in flight.

Reason #1: I don’t want to burn to death

Modern airplanes carry a staggering large load of fuel. Almost all of the space inside a modern jet liner’s wings and often some inside the fuselage are topped off with highly flammable jet fuel in order to feed those hungry engines and keep the airplane hurtling through the atmosphere. Normally, this fuel is safely carried through the fuel lines and delivered to the engines without issue. But when those fuel lines are interrupted or punctured, things go terribly wrong.

Point in case: Air France 4590. During the takeoff roll, a small piece of debris punctured one of the aircraft’s tires and caused it to burst. Fragments from the tire were flung into the wing, puncturing the skin, and causing fuel within to gush out. The fuel was ignited by engine exhaust and caused the entire wing of the aircraft to become engulfed in flames. Less than a minute after takeoff everyone on board was dead, barbecued alive.

On ground transportation, fuel system punctures aren’t nearly as catastrophic. If a bus starts leaking fuel all it needs to do is pull over to the side of the road and everyone can escape within seconds. But at 35,000 feet, it would still take almost full minute to get to the ground even if the pilot points the airplane straight down and flies at full speed.

While there have been some improvements to aircraft design to keep similar incidents from happening, the requirement for lightweight materials means that the wings and fuselage of an airplane are nowhere near bulletproof. If a small piece of rubber can inflict that much damage on an airplane, imagine what a 220 grain slug traveling at nearly the speed of sound can accomplish.

Bullets wouldn’t even need to puncture the skin of the plane to cause this worst case scenario on most smaller aircraft. Airplanes like the MD-80 or the ERJ-145 position their engine nacelles on the main fuselage of the aircraft instead of under the wings. That means the fuel lines that feed them run through the main cabin and are relatively unprotected as they enter the engine. There isn’t much metal or insulation to impede a bullet’s path, and one stray round in this vital location could send everyone on board to a fiery death.

Reason #2: I don’t want to crash

Modern airplanes are too big and too fast to be controlled by the old system of cables and pulleys that allow me to steer my Cessna 172SP. Instead, they use a system of hydraulics to power the control surfaces and move them during flight. The problem is that these hydraulic systems only work when there is sufficient fluid in the systems to provide pressure to move those surfaces — if the pipes are dry, the airplane won’t respond.

United Airlines flight 232 suffered an unexpected loss of hydraulic fluid as a result of a burst fan disk in their rear engine during a flight over the central United States. Without hydraulic fluid, the pilots were unable to control the aircraft using any of their flight controls. They piloted the aircraft down to the ground using differential thrust to steer the bird, and the subsequent crash landing killed a large percentage of the passengers and crew.

Northwest Airlines flight 85 was flying over the Pacific ocean to Japan when a single component in the tail of the aircraft cracked and caused something called a “rudder hardover event” where the rudder moved to the furthest point in its travel on one side and stayed there. The pilots were only able to get the airplane back to Alaska thanks to their vast experience and extreme luck.

The point is that in an airplane, even a very small or expected failure can lead to a crash. Every flight system is vital, and even so much as a small deviation from the normal operating parameters could end in the death of every person on board. Thanks to the use of lightweight materials and ever-decreasing thicknesses on aircraft, there is very little protection for these vital control systems from high velocity pieces of lead.

Reason #3: I want the pilots to be alive

Let’s switch gears for a second and talk about hijackings. The 1970’s was the golden age of hijackings, where the criminals were polite and people rarely got hurt. That all changed in 2001, and now the focus in terrorism is to use the aircraft as a missile to cause as much damage as possible.

At the moment, pilots are protected from their cargo (passengers) by an armored door. It’s very unlikely that a single determined attacker or even a group of attackers would have enough time to break through that door before either the cabin crew or the other passengers overwhelmed the merry band of murderers. But when you throw a gun into the mix, a well-trained attacker might be able to work his way into that secured cockpit.

If a bus driver gets shot while on the highway, the bus may slam into a wall and some people have a chance to survive. But as we saw with Pacific Southwest Airlines flight 1771, a single determined attacker can easily kill every single person on an airplane with a six-shot revolver.

What Robert Missed 

The problem with Robert’s argument, as I’m sure has already been pointed out, is that it boils down to “this one airplane didn’t crash, so we should be OK.” In his single, cherry-picked incident, the airplane was already on short final and about to land. There were only 250 feet left to go between the plane and the ground before it landed, and the distance combined with the caliber choice meant that the projectiles hitting the plane didn’t have very much energy left.

There were very few things that could have gone wrong in Robert’s example. Even in the worst case scenario of a total loss of control, the plane would have still landed and there probably would have been some survivors. But take that same aircraft, set it cruising six miles above the ground, and put a bullet in one of the fuel lines leading to the engines and we have a completely different story.

Personally, I have no problem with voluntary gun-free zones — so long as the location provides a reasonable level of protection. Gun-free zones in schools infuriate me because there is no added security to offset what I lose from disarming in the parking lot. Airports, on the other hand, have multiple layers of security and employ armed guards and police officers to offset my personal loss of armed self defense. I’m also not forced to fly — I can drive or take the bus (or fly myself someday) and carry the whole way. Use of the commercial aviation system is voluntary, and these businesses have made their gun-free policies clear and well known.

The problem with guns on airplanes is that the probability of stopping a hijacking is lower than the probability that someone will put a round into one of the engines. Especially with the impaired decision-making abilities that comes with decreased air pressure, safe firearms handling in the air is probably something better left to the professionals.

Where airline carry would start to make sense is if there were an aviation-specific concealed carry licensing process (like the one for law enforcement officers) that would train people in airplane-specific firearms handling and usage principles, but until something like that gets rolling I don’t see any real benefit from guns in airplanes.

On the ground, however, its a completely different story.

TL;DR: A negligent discharge on the ground isn’t the end of the world, but a single misplaced round at 35,000 feet can cause the deaths of hundreds of people. The added risk isn’t offset by the reward at the moment. If you want to start talking about a special CCW license for airplanes with added training requirements, though, I’d be all ears.

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  1. CC on commercial aircraft is probably not something we need to waste a lot of time worrying about.

    • Agreed. It’s like #153 on the list of gun-related issues to address, if at all. But should be an entertaining discussion! (grabs popcorn)

    • Amen. Even if it were totally legal, you could count the number of airlines that would allow it on zero hands.

    • I agree… lets focus on getting concealed carry in places where signs are used as the only deterrent to keep guns out, then work on places like airports.

    • I remember some time ago there were some people saying we should pass out guns to everyone as they board the plane. The idea behind this of course, was that nobody would dare hijack a plane, knowing that everybody was armed!
      There have been better ideas.

    • For all the reasons listed, CC on a commercial aircraft is rediculous. That is not to say that being armed is rediculous, however. The current policy of treating adults as infants, and removing nail clippers, etc, is equally rediculous. I would be in total agreement to give every adult a nice sharp roofing hatchet as they board the plane, and then collect them as the passengers deplane. Any hijackers would have to constitute the majority of the passengers to have any hope of survival, let alone success.

  2. As the pilot in command for some 500 hours now, I think your words suggest that you are far too afraid of the plane you hope to be in charge of someday to be trusted. Hopefully, some of that fear, born out of ignorence no doubt, will abate as you gain experience. If not, hopefully, your CFI or someone else will straighten you out…

    • Interesting comment… If we can agree that FEAR = False Evidence Appearing Real (just a handy way to say that fear is almost always about something that hasn’t happened), then how is it “fear” to provide evidence in each scenario posited by the author? It is not fear that United 123 lost a fan blade and crashed in Sioux City. It is a fact. Large aircraft crash from time to time because of the failure of a small component. To state that as a fact is not to express fear.

      • The issue is that the author is ignoring several well known facts to aerospace engineers. While it is certainly POSSIBLE for his scenarios to take place… It is so overwhelmingly improbable due to modern airframe and avionic design as to be laughable.

        • I don’t know that it is laughable. I don’t know that enough tests (if any) have been done to show what a fire fight aboard a commercial aircraft at altitude will do.

        • Except that any aerospace engineer can tell you that commercial aircraft are designed to deal with far worse than piddling little hollow points zipping around the cabin.

        • I’m not sure I want to be on a plane when a fire fight is going on, or where hollow points are zipping around. A couple of guns would be nice, but not a plane full of armed people like me.

        • As someone with just a passing knowledge of heavy aircraft (2 decades as a B-52 maintenance technician) the author is WRONG on several points.

          1.) Modern aircraft have several layers of redundancy of systems – hydraulic, electrical, fuel, life support, etc. The odds of a single (or even multiple) pistol-caliber bullets penetrating several layers of aircraft structural materials, penetrating a fuel line, or damaging a n engine to the point of failure are near astronomical.

          2.) Life support/cabin pressurization systems are DESIGNED t cope with catastrophic failure. Witness the Aloha Airlines flight that lost approximately 1/4 of its upper fuselage due to inflight structural failure. An unsecured flight attendant was sucked out by turbulence, but the aircraft was still flyable, and landed. You could fire a full magazine from an Uzi through the skin, and the aircraft could still maintain cabin pressure. Even if you lost a window or 2, the cabin would remain pressurized enough to allow normal breathing during descent.

          In my opinion, one of the best options would be to use military veterans with heavy aircraft experience, add a little training, and deputize them as volunteer Federal Air Marshals. Those with such experience have a very good idea of WHAT NOT TO SHOOT. The whole idea is to deny access to the cockpit. If members of the flight crew are also armed, even if the cockpit door is breached they would still be able to defeat the hijackers. Worst case scenario: hostages could be killed/injured. But better to suffer a few casualties than to lose the entire aircraft.

      • During the Korean War, it would take some 2,000 rounds of fifty cal bullets fired from Sabre jets to shoot down a Mig. The odds of bringing an airplane down with an accidental discharge from a handgun is pretty remote. Not to say it couldn’t happen but then again, McDonald’s restaurants really does “do it all for you”, Elvis is alive an well in Mexico City and Anna Nicole Smith married for love.

    • +1
      I have over 2,000 total time, and have flown transport category aircraft in combat with hydraulic leaks, rapid depressurizations, thunderstorms, lightning strikes, etc. I’ve been lucky that none of the guys that have shot at me have hit my plane, but I know many friends who have come home with bullet holes in the plane.

      Mr Leghorn lacks the knowledge and experience to back up his claims, though I wish him the best of luck in his flight training!

  3. I’m curious how many accidental discharges have taken down a military plane from WWII on. Pilots and soldiers regularly carry on aircraft yet I have yet to hear of any incident. Yes they are trained with weapons, but i haven’t heard of any specific aviation training with respect to firearms and flying.

    • (you must take into account that military aircraft are hardened / have armored fuel systems)

      • … and also have much less redundancy than commercial systems due to trying to maximize the performance envelope of the airframe.

        • Either way, I think the fact that most of those aircraft in world war 2 had alot more to worry about than a small caliber firearm. You know, flak cannons and all that.. They’d get struck by an 88mm flak shell and still manage to fly home.

        • Great example… Now think about the fact that all commercial airliners have at least an extra layer of redundancy over your WWII example in order to be approved for flight.

          For Example:
          A twin engine aircraft rated for trans-Atlantic flight has to be able to make the journey on one engine.

          Another Example:
          All commercial aircraft avionics operate with three layers of redundancy at every stage.

        • Actually, military aircraft have a lot more built-in redundancy than civilian aircraft–both the control systems and airframe. Some of them come in still flying with quite a bit of battle damage.

          Redundancy adds weight which equals dollars to commercial airlines.

          That said, people carried pistols all during the Fifties and most of the Sixties as passengers on commercial aircraft, and I don’t remember a single incident.

        • Sam… As an aerospace engineer I can tell you that this is blatantly untrue. Commercial airliners are not trying to push the performance envelope the way military aircraft do. Their redundancies are much more robust because they can sacrifice a decrease in performance for an increase in safety margin.

          If you ask a military aircraft design board which they would rather cut performance, or extra redundancy, you know damn well which one is going to get the chop.

      • Not really. Military aircraft aren’t particularly more armored or hardened than civilian aircraft except for the occasional aircraft with some type of protection for the crew. Armor and hardening is heavy… that would mean they had to carry less cargo, weapons, ammo, or fuel (depending on the type of aircraft you are talking about). Take the UH-60 for example, there are aftermarket kits you can use to armor up the floor, but there is nothing done to the components of the aircraft. They use redundant systems and the good old “Big Sky, Little Bullet” theory.

        As for fuel systems, they use the same lines and self sealing tanks a civil airliner would use.

      • I was under the impression they don’t truly armor anything that flies. Not to the extent of preventing a bullet from going through it anyhow. More along the lines of just enough reinforcement to keep everything held together.

        • It’s not really a matter of armor. It’s a matter of “that part has to be at least that tough to do its job”… Airframes come under enormous stress during normal operation and have safety margins designed around those stress levels. Handgun fire is just not even near the same scale.

        • Other than a close ground support craft like the A-10, I can’t think of any fixed wing craft that is hardened. Even in the case of the A-10, the cockpit is the only armored area.

        • “… Airframes come under enormous stress during normal operation and have safety margins designed around those stress levels. Handgun fire is just not even near the same scale.”

          And then you add a piece of lead traveling at 1000fps+ to those stress levels that part is already under. If aircraft were truely that resiliant, bird strikes wouldn’t even be an issue.

        • That is pretty much what I was getting at.

          They don’t put things on them that will stop bullets… but the skin isn’t going to just disintegrate from the decompression from a bullet hole at altitude.

          So, point being, the bullet would totally go right through it, but wouldn’t do any major damage unless it actually hit a vital component.

        • Panzercat, maybe you should do the math on how many ft/lbs of energy a bird striking a jet engine has and then rethink your comment. It’s a hell of a lot more than a .45.

          • Bird strikes happen daily and aren’t taking planes out of the sky. This is completely a matter of cherry picking the info. How many people report a crime happened when they stop it with a gun? How many birds strike engines and don’t take them down? Does that make it into the news? I’ve seen beaks lodged in wings and the wings didn’t break off. I’ve seen panels fall off wings inflight and seen spots where panels should have been that fell off somewhere between here and there, and it didn’t interrupt lift, it just added some more drag to the ratio. I’ve talked to the pilots of a plane that had their wings shot up and they flew for another hour before landing and weren’t worried.

            Aircraft aren’t these invulnerable magic carpets. Hell, search for pictures of airplane damage from hail. Shoot, search for the largest hailstone findings. They fly around in air cells until the current abates or the hail gets so big it flings out on it’s own. Pilots avoid storm cells, but it doesn’t mean they miss the effects completely.

            Don’t even get me started on helicopters, which is where the easy majority of my flight time is.

            Fear of the what if’s won’t help to educate anyone, propagating the fear will just cause more fear and ignorance. So if there’s something out there that’s a gap in your knowledge, confuses, or scares you challenge it and yourself; then search until you have answers and leave a space in your thought process for both points of view. Don’t set out trying to find fuel to help you dig a rift between yourself and the people that disagree with you. Life’s about serious pondering, not mob-think. ANNDDD…. soap box preaching done.

      • i also know for a fact that you never fly condition 1 in military aircraft and all rifles are pointed to the floor at all times. Only the crews/aircrafts mounted weapons are loaded and used in flight. 9 times out of 10 you fly completely unloaded in the military, condition 4 while in all vehicles unless in a combat zone.

        • The military doesn’t write the handbook on what is correct and incorrect. That idea is just ridiculous.

      • (you must take into account that military aircraft are hardened / have armored fuel systems)

        Actually, most military transport aircraft do not.

    • Probably none. The military has always required soldiers, airmen, etc. to carry Israeli. It’s much harder to have a NG when the pipe is empty.

      • Hmm…I must have been doing it wrong during several air assaults in Afghanistan. Every swinging dick was locked and loaded. It helps when you run off the ramp of the CH-47 when you don’t know what will be waiting for you to not have to think about whether your weapon is loaded.

        Peacetime training? Yup. No round in chamber, whether mags are in ammo pouches or not is really up to the crew chief. YMMV depending on which service you belonged to, when and where you served and who was flying the aircraft.

    • Actually – you cannot take a loaded weapon onto military aircraft by FAA regulation. The military still follows all FAA rules (hence the no-smoking and seatbelt lit placards on C-17’s). In this instance I am speaking of fixed wing aircraft which would be the only relevant discussion here. Just for kicks however – while in AFG on CH-47s we were not allowed to be Condition Red (round in chamber, weapons on safe). The only armed people are the crew – who’s weapons face out of the aircraft. If you look close in photographs you’ll see (on fixed wing transport) rifles all have chamber blocks in.

    • They were probably also trained in those arms to some degree.
      Can’t guarantee Ed in the seat beside me is.

  4. Carrying while flying coach is horribly uncomfortable. Even if your a fit person, the seats are tight. Having flown, armed, while doing an extradition was a less than comfortable experience.

  5. Your arguments sound exactly like those of hoplophobes when discussing concealed carry. “Oh no! Something *might* happen.”

    Yeah, it’s possible that a negligent discharge might hit a fuel line (hydraulic lines aren’t really a concern; there are redundant systems to take care of that possibility). But that is a vanishingly small likelihood.

    “[E]ven a very small or expected failure can lead to a crash…” Uh, no. Engineering has a concept called redundancy. An expected failure in an airliner will be handled by redundant systems. A “very small” failure can only lead to crash if multiple mistakes are made in responding to the error. (A “very small” failure is difficult to define, but presumably if one failure leads by itself to loss of control it is by definition not a very small failure.)

    Reason #3: Uh…I’d like children to be alive too. Does that mean we shouldn’t allow guns in schools?

    (BTW, I’m a pilot with hundreds of hours…)

  6. For someone who wants to be a pilot… You need to brush up on your aerospace engineering.

    1. A pressure vessel designed to contain aircraft fuel in flight is more than capable of stopping handgun rounds. (Especially rounds designed not to over penetrate like all modern self defense ammo.)
    2. Avionics are run through sections of the hull that you cannot access from the main cabin. (Not to mention that they are triple redundant.
    3. A pistol caliber cannot puncture a pressurized hull. Even if it could, the result would be a leak and deployment of oxygen masks and not Hollywood style explosive decompression. In all honesty, a drop in cabin pressure would neutralize all the attackers and probably result in a moderately positive outcome.
    4. Pistol calibers cannot penetrate armored doors nor can you shoot through a lock with a handgun.

    My suggestion is that you brush up on your understanding of basic mechanical engineering and quit watching Hollywood movies for your knowledge on aircraft safety.

    • 1. Incorrect. You can puncture the tanks with a dull screwdriver. They may, however, be “self-sealing”, i.e. have a lining that will seal small punctures, much like ‘Slime’ in a tire. Also, fuel tanks are not generally pressurized. They are actually designed to equalize pressure so as to reduce fatigue and thus leaks.

      2. Also incorrect. Cable runs you can access from the main cabin… if you know how. But you sure can’t do it covertly, and people WILL see and stop you if you try. The actual electronic boxes are usually grouped in central locations, sometimes accesable from the cabin, sometimes not.

      3. See ‘screwdriver’, item 1. But still a negligible danger. Commercial aircraft already have several square feet of ventilation and their pressurization systems can handle several more. You’d have to complety open a startlingly large amount of footage before decompression became a problem, and even then it wouldn’t actually bother the aircraft’s flight ability. Shoot a 100 rounds of handgun ammo through the fusalage and the AC system wouldn’t even notice. Unless you hit and damaged enough control system components, and unless you have very specialized knowledge, that’s astronomically unlikely.

      4. Depends on the armor and the lock. But yeah, it ain’t Hollywood.

    • “A pistol caliber cannot puncture a pressurized hull.”

      Maybe if you’re using a .22 Short revolver… If your handgun can’t punch a hole in a couple millimeters of aluminum, it’s probably not worth carrying for self-defense anyway.

      You’re right, though, that a small hole in the fuselage doesn’t automatically result in explosive decompression as Hollywood would have you believe.

  7. “The problem with Robert’s argument, as I’m sure has already been pointed out, is that it boils down to “this one airplane didn’t crash, so we should be OK.” In his single, cherry-picked incident, the airplane was already on short final and about to land.”

    With all due respect, you seem to be engaging in a bit of the same. I also believe you’re overhyping the risk posed by a negligent discharge on a modern aircraft, but I digress.

    Furthermore, me wanting to carry on an airplane has little to do with a personal desire to be able to stop a hijacking if one happens (which is so unlikely in the first place it’s ridiculous). It has to do with freedom.

    Since the government and private companies working hand-in-hand with them essentially tell me to **** off, they can get bent. I don’t fly because of their policies.

    People used to be able to bring rifles, handguns, and shotguns in carry-on baggage aboard planes without any issue.

    • People used to be able to bring rifles, handguns, and shotguns in carry-on baggage aboard planes without any issue.

      Without any issue except those unplanned side-trips to Cuba.

      • Clever, but a problem that likely could’ve been solved by the eeeevuuullllll profiling rather than banning guns from everywhere but checked baggage.

        • Profiling wasn’t evil at the time, it’s just that nobody here knew how to do it. Profiling is an important part of a layered security framework, but the purpose of profiling is to keep bad people with weapons off the airplane. Keeping all weapons off the airplane in the first place would seem to to the same job, but with less art and more haste.

  8. Agree with the article. It’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard of. Do you guys know how many complete morons are out there? It’a not a matter of if something horrible will happen, it’s a question of when and how many dozens/hundreds of times.

    • Then how about asking folks to keep their guns in hard cases in their carry ons?

      Problem solved.

    • Your argument could be a cut-and-paste of any hoplophobe’s argument for keeping guns out of shopping malls, movie theaters, schools, playgrounds, concerts, busy sidewalks, cars, buses, etc., etc., ad nauseum.

      It seems that for some gun owners, if you scratch the surface you’ll find one or more of the following: elitist, hoplophobe, or progressive.

      Hell, even Chuck Schumer supports the 2nd Amendment. Just ask him, he’ll tell you.

  9. “I’m not a pilot (yet). But I’ve already passed the FAA written exam, have more time behind the stick than Robert, and I think that gives me a little more insight into the world of aviation.”

    “I’m not a cop (yet). But I have passed the police written exam, have more time on the range than Rover, and I think that gives me a little more insight into the world of carrying a gun on a daily basis.”

    Not saying, just saying.

    But, in the words of Facebook Kermit, that’s none of my buisness.

  10. I am not concerned with a ND hitting a fuel line or control cable/wire. I am concerned about a ND depressurizing the aircraft (non-explosively), but there are plenty of planes with armed people on them (private planes and air marshals, for example) and this doesn’t seem to be a huge problem.

    I’m more concerned with the fact that someone with a gun in a controlled area at 40,000 ft can do a lot of damage. The good guys with guns paradigm doesn’t really apply as much here as the author points out since getting a firearm onto a plane is not as easy as uncontrolled areas. Plus people go all weird on planes.

    • NO, it does NOT happen. I believe Mythbusters did an episode about depressurization.

      Bullet holes and even larger holes are not a danger. Planes do depressurize explosively as in movies.

      • Any bullet sized puncture in the hull runs into the classic problem of sonically chocked airflow. You physically can’t get air to flow through a puncture faster than the speed of sound. (barring some nifty engineering) Given the pressure of air in the main cabin and the volumes involved… It would take the better part of an hour for pressure to drop significantly.

        • By which time oxygen masks would be deployed and the pilot would be heading in for landing at the nearest airport.

      • Oh blazes, I see I dropped the word “not”. I meant planes do NOT depressurize explosively.

        Shoulda stood in bed today 🙂

  11. As a whole I don’t disagree with you. I’d also point out that an airplane is an awful tightly packed sardine can with a lot of room to break the rule about what is in front, behind, and to the sides of the target.

    Frankly, an airplane is such close quarters that I’d rather just carry my knife.

    But I wish you hadn’t made the comment about poorly trained individuals. While Robert is good about highlighting idiot gun owners we’ve also been presented with statistics about CCW permit holders actually having a better track record the law enforcement.

  12. The current protocols for flying with a gun in checked luggage are a major inconvenience, due to the additional delays while checking in, and having to wait for your luggage at the destination. I’d prefer an option to secure my firearm in my carry-on luggage while in secure terminals and on the plane (say in a micro-vault type container). Maybe require these passengers to undergo additional one-time security screening like TSA’s PreCheck program, and/or to hold a CCW permit.

    • The current protocols for flying with a gun in checked luggage are a major inconvenience, due to the additional delays while checking in, and having to wait for your luggage at the destination.

      I check pistols all the time when I travel to Nevada and Florida where I’m licensed to conceal and carry. The check-in delay is negligible — the process takes mere minutes. And in some airports, checking guns at the counter gets you a free TSA precheck pass that lets you skirt the long line, which saves time and hassle. Keep your shoes on, no need to take your computer out of your carry-on, and no waiting.

      Waiting for luggage on arrival? Yeah, that twenty minute delay is a killer.

  13. I had some cherries this morning. Sweet and juicy, with a slight hint of tart. The best way to eat fruit.
    But, I chocked on one of the pits, and, you know, nearly died. I am not eating cherries(mmmm the are the best; no, I am not eating them) ever again. And, I will do everything I can to save others by seeing them banned.

    Nous Defions

  14. Nick, I also find it dismaying that you imply you would be okay with a ban on adults carrying concealed in school as long as it was flooded with redundant armed security like an airport.

    Am I wrong?

    I’m of the opinion that public institutions involuntarily funded by taxpayer money (and whom our children are forced by law to attend) should not be able to deprive people of their second amendment rights without due process.

    • Isn’t this pretty much the same argument the left makes on the daily? You don’t need guns because the police are everywhere and have guns and they will protect you.

      • You can’t recognize the difference between a public thoroughfare and a sealed tube at 30,000 feet. Interesting.

        • It is less about the recognition of the difference between the two, and pointing out that the same arguments gun grabbers use about why we shouldn’t allow carry in schools.

          Carrying should be perfectly fine and legal in schools, as the POTG are more likely to kill a bad guy with a gun/less likely to have accidents, whatever.

          We shouldn’t allow carry on planes because the law of averages says at some point we will have an ND and everyone on board will die.

          SO what argument is it? Are the POTG a careful, respectable, well intention and smart group capable of carrying a weapon everyday without accidently killing anyone? Or are the POTG a dangerous group that puts everyone at risk to a Hollywood style, Michael Bay-ish crash?

  15. Considering some modern aircraft commercial aircraft can literally withstand a bomb in the belly of the aircraft, i highly.. -highly- doubt a handgun can do much of anything to anything larger than a private aircraft like a Cessna.

    All in all, I completely disagree with this article. While I respect the writer, the writer himself is completely uninformed in this matter. I’m married to an aircraft engineer that has worked on and designed commercial systems for Boeing, and said engineer has already stated that most of this is simply fiction. A handgun cannot cause significant mechanical / physical damage to bring down a larger commercial aircraft outside of human error.

  16. Point #1…Fuel is weight, weight costs fuel, and fuel costs money so the vast majority of your airline flights are flown with as little fuel as will safely get you to your destination plus a little extra fuel, according to FAA regs. The New Orleans to Washington DC flight I’m dispatching (planning) right now is carrying 12200 pounds of fuel on board. The aircraft has a total capacity of 20700 pounds. It is just over half full so there is a lot of empty space in the wings that doesn’t contain fuel. Air France was caused more by the unique location and size of the engines and fuel tanks on the Concorde. A bullet through the fuel tanks would most likely hit empty space and would also likely cause no fire at all.

    Point #2…The systems on an aircraft all have backups. In fact their backups have backups. The DC-10 was a unique aircraft…again like the concorde. The location of the third engine above the tail and near the hydrauic lines of all three systems was a recipe for disaster if a catastrauphic engine failure or rapid depressurization occurred. We have learned those lessons. For all three systems to fail on nearly all modern aircraft designs too quickly for the crew to react and get the aircraft safely to an airprot before total loss of hydraulic fluids would mean the aircraft would be in peices already. The aircraft I work with also have outboard elevators still atuated by cables, so even in the event of a total hydraulic failure control could still be maintained.

    Point #3..Evil people exist. Good people do too.

  17. I’m not worried about an ND taking down the plane. I’m worried about a well-planned attack by multiple armed terrorists taking down the plane.

    Even if I was armed and prepared to fight against long odds, the “tailgunner” would make short work of me or anybody else who tried to fight back. That’s the way it’s done now — the scvmbags are always polishing their craft.

    The only way to know for sure that the guy sitting next to you isn’t a potential mass murderer is if you travel alone.

    • Ralph gets it just right – the problem isn’t the plane coming out of the air due to a single ND, which (with more than a few hours of time behind the stick myself) I believe would be quite improbable. The problem is a bunch of people stuck in a situation where the Bad Guys with Guns would have a target rich environment, and a group of them working in concert would cause incredible damage and loss of life – and that’s without them making a team effort to take over the plane and have their very own guided, fuel-laden missile. The Good Guys with Guns (if there were any) would have no chance of stopping them. There would be no teamwork, there would be no knowledge of who was a Good Guy and who was a Bad Guy, there would be no safe direction amongst the sardines to move or even aim beyond a narrow available range of motion and line of sight. I don’t agree with the reasoning of the author but completely agree with the conclusion: Airline Carry is a Bad Idea.

      • It doesnt have to even be multiple bad guys with guns, it can be one bad guy with a gun, or a good guy with a gun confronting a bad guy who misses. That happens on a dark street corner and 99% of the time nothing happens, that happens in coach on your average airplane and you’d better be praying tha only thing that happens is that the bullet takes the shortest path out of the fuselage… the reality is, if you miss or overpenetrate someone else will be hit by that bullet. You are in a confined metal tube with several hundred people sitting shoulder to should chest to back. Or worse, the two people flying the thing are sitting at such an angle that you miss for a chest shot on the BG goes right into the back of one of their heads or into their instrument panel or out the front window.

        Something about 4 rules and always being aware of your target and what is beyond it and immediately around it… people are not honestly arguing this is good idea are they? I agree Nick’s reasons are off base, but the conclusion is very right.

    • Negligent discharge???? I have owned and carried guns since 1962. I have never had a negligent discharge!!!! I was trained by an ex navy submariner, my step father. I have also flown all sorts of airplanes. There would be no take over of airplanes by terrorists, if we were allowed to carry on airplanes. Negligent discharges are so rare as to be non existant. But concealed carry people should have extensive training in gun safety and hitting what they aim at!!!!!
      The police are more dangerous with a gun then the concealed carry people.!!!!!!

  18. I love the explanation for reason #3…because we all know someone who wants to take over a plane will obey the “No Guns Allowed” rule.

    This article is eerily similar to “Our state is going to allow concealed carry? Blood will run in the streets!!!!”.

    • I don’t know f you’ve been to an airport recently, but they have a lot more than “No Guns Allowed” signage.

      Nobody expects the bad guys to obey. We expect them to get caught. If you think it’s easy not to get caught, try getting your own gun on board.

      • Given the prevalence of 3D printing technology? A small derringer would easily sail through security.

    • You arent serious are you? In an airport the criminal who ignores the no guns allowed rule has to breach several layers of security to get on a plane with a gun… you must not fly much.

  19. I agree with Nick. There is no safe direction you can fire a handgun in a plane. There is barely enough room to piss without worrying about ducking bullets. Planes are dangerous enough without giving the passengers the ability to take it down. As an aerospace engineering I completely disagree with people who think a hydraulic line can take a direct hit from a bullet and be fine. They are designed to contain pressure from the inside, not the outside.

    • They are also behind multiple layers of barriers that should be very resistant to handgun fire.

      • Oh yes, because handgun fire is part of airframe certification. Just drop it already, airplanes are made out of aluminum, and particle board, with some foam insulation slapped in there for some good measure. I handgun round would very likely have no trouble going in one side and out the other if fired broadside to an airplane. Would this cause catastrophic damage/ explosive decompression? No, but it would be really unfortunate for the person sitting inside who happens to be in the bullet’s way. The person killed in the article Nick references was hit from gunfire from a submachine gun fired from 200-250 feet from below. That means the bullet after traveling nearly 100yds, still had enough energy to travel through the belly, through the baggage compartment, and through the floor which on most planes is a pressure bulkhead, and through the bottom of the seat with enough retained energy to fatally wound someone. Quit the nonsense of acting like a plane is a frikkin flying armoured car. Cockpit doors are designed to hol dup to large blunt instrument intrusion, not bullet proof, I would bet they are made of some sort of plywood/mdf/ particle board sandwiched with maybe some aluminum honeycomb with the jamb and perimeter reinforced with aluminum cross members, you might stop a 22lr with that.

      • So, you know nothing of aviation engineering, construction or maintenance. Got it.

    • I’m betting you can’t step onto any commercial aircraft and point to the hydraulic lines.

      Your fears, just like the Pro-Restrictionists, are over-exagerated.

  20. I was kinda half hearted following your logic until you pulled a Shannon Watts with the Flight 1771 as a reason against airline carry.

    I am not convinced either way on the issue but I can say that I am very disappointed, Nick.

  21. Nick, call the DoD immediately. Seems they’ve been wasting billions on fire and forget surface to air missiles when a simple $300 .38 could turn a jet into a flaming wreck much more economically. Seriously, don’t let your 20 hours in a 1978 piston powered Cessna make you think you’re an engineer all of a sudden. You’re a journalist. And one that does very poor research, at that.

  22. …highly flammable jet fuel…

    As a point of fact, jet fuel is not ‘highly flammable’. That jet engine exhaust was probably over ~1500 degrees Fahrenheit.

    I’d be far more worried about a pilot getting perforated than a fuel tank.

  23. Interesting thoughts Nick. I heard that after 9/11 Argentina started allowing passengers to carry handguns on commercial aircraft flying within the country.
    I heard( a couple years ago, maybe longer) that there had been no problems.
    Does anyone have any actual facts on Argentina’s experience(if this is true)?

    • Mr. Leghorn’s analysis fails on a much more important and easily quantifiable level: incentives.

      What incentive is there for a group of terrorists to try and hijack a jet when the cabin doors are armored and locked and an unknown number of good people are armed an able to stop the hijacking? Answer: there is no incentive because they have basically zero chance of taking the plane and using it as a flying missile.

      What incentive is there for a group of terrorists to try and commit mass murder on a jet when an unknown number of good people are armed and able to respond? Answer: there is no incentive because plane tickets cost several hundreds to thousands of dollars and tickets on packed commuter trains cost basically nothing and provide just as rich of target environment.

      As for unintentional discharges, I don’t see those happening at all … and causing next to no damage even if they did happen.

      • Kill a bunch of people on a commuter train: two days to five days in the headlines, depending on the news cycle. Turn an aluminum tube into a killing field in the flight levels: weeks of coverage, more ammunition to the government to “lock down” (for our own good), coverage of the hearings and investigations, accusation of who knew what when, the crazies like Alex Jones get to crawl out and spout their hate. Priceless (to terrorists).

        And that’s assuming they’re driven by cost-benefit ratios.

  24. “The problem with guns on airplanes is that the probability of stopping a hijacking is lower than the probability that someone will put a round into one of the engines. Especially with the impaired decision-making abilities that comes with decreased air pressure, safe firearms handling in the air is probably something better left to the professionals.”

    I call bogeyman shenanigans. A natural right is a natural right. If professionsals can carry, I can carry. I’ve shot USPSA and IDPA matches next to them and they run the gamut the same as non-professionals. If you are so concerned with the issues of air-craft carry maybe that should be in the saftey talk they have in the beginning that makes sure every one knows how to use a belt buckle….

    • Pistolero,
      If I saw you on my flight, I would surely be in security heaven with your experience, so it’s not you.
      Let me ask you of your trips to the range and observing other shooters, have you ever been nervous about their skills, ignorance, irresponsible behavior? If need be, you can slowly back away off the range but where at 35K feet. That’s the thing, I don’t want to fly with them. Your skills may be OK but I have a problem with you thinking that you should be able to do what you like inside of someone else’s multi-million dollar piece of equipment.
      Hell, if you were hitch hiking down the road and I stopped to pick you up, would it be OK for me to ask you to put your gun in the trunk and for you to choose ride or no ride.

  25. even if you ignore all the individual arguments, i think the author makes a valid point at the end: What’s more likely to happen: Someone CC’s on a plane stops a hijacking or someone CC’s on a plane and has an ND resulting in anything ranging from minor damage to total loss of the aircraft?

    Granted both are highly unlikely, but i have to agree the ND seems more probable..

    • Yes. Aircraft Carry adds a third level of chaos into the numbers. But! At a guess most people are not going to want to carry ‘in case of hijacking.’ I would think it more like I am carrying, I am going to grandma’s, and I have to get there via airplane. You don’t carry your firearm in your car because you expect to fend off a carjacker, you carry in your car because you were carrying when you got in and you plan on carrying when you get out of your car. I am carrying here, and I plan on carrying there, and there is an airplane ride between the two.

      But, in the spirit of interesting bogeymen of bullets and airplanes… What if there is a ND having the other armed passengers, or even the air marshal, try to return fire?

    • Gun rights and property rights do not collide, so Nick is on safe ground when he upholds property rights.
      Only Government can restrict your rights, The airline is just exercising their rights.

      Not your plane, not your decision. See, no conflict.

      • It’s not up to the Airline to allow or disallow concealed carry. The Government mandates it.

        • And you think if the government suddenly reversed its stance and said loaded weapons are OK, the airlines would all suddenly roll over and agree? Not a chance. They’d say, “That’s nice, you still can’t bring it on my plane.”

          For purposes of comparison, keep in mind that the TSA regs for flying with guns in checked baggage are minimums, but the airlines are free to have stricter individual rules, and most every one does. Whether it’s weight limits (none are specified by TSA except the 11# of ammo rule) or limits on the number of guns per case (strictly a revenue generating measure for the airlines, the TSA has no limits) or the rule about “separation between the cartridges” (i.e. no loaded magazines on some airlines; the TSA doesn’t care as long as they’re secure), flying with guns requires strict attention to not only the TSA rules, but those of your specific airline. And be sure to check back often, because the rules change regularly (though lately most of those changes have been for the better). I have no reason to believe that the situation with “airplane carry” would be any different.

    • I was thinking how ironic that they posted a piece about Metcalf on the same day as this. Not quite the same, but… If private airlines don’t want their passengers to carry, that’s one thing, but I don’t think it should be illegal. We could have airlines that allow concealed carry to compete with those that don’t and see which ones would be more popular with the customers. I’d much rather have armed citizens on board than entrust my airline security to the government sponsored fiasco that is the TSA.

      • I didn’t mean to imply that you said it, I was just making a broader point. But let the airlines and their customers decide if it’s a good idea or not. Let them set the rules and let them compete based on their concealed carry policy, among other things. Maybe you’ll never want to fly with a CCW friendly airline, but I definitely would. But the way you present your point of view is, like others have said here, very naive and something that would be advocated by the gun grabbers, not you. Disappointing.

      • Keep in mind that if an air marshal is forced to use their gun chambered in 357 SIG JHP Gold Dots and sadly it may potentially hit one of the sensitive areas of the plane after passing through the bad guy, however a missed shot that hits a sensitive area is much more likely to do enough damage to take down the plane. Air Marshals used to use frangible ammo such as the Glaser safety slug but were transitioned to the 357 SIG JHP Gold Dots. Maybe the Air Marshals should be given a Taser if they do not have one already.

  26. One comment, if you work for anyone other than yourself, air travel is often involuntary, as in, “you are going to on flight , pack your bags”, saith The Boss.

  27. Respectfully, as an engineer and a pilot, these are not really the issues. By and large, you would be hard pressed to puncture a fuel line or tank in such a way that the fuel could ignite and propagate back to the aircraft. It is equally unlikely to puncture hydraulic lines, and is furthermore unlikely to cause control loss due to the redundancies built into aircraft controls specifically to prevent single failures from causing loss of control.

    Keep in mind, that I agree with your conclusion that it’s a bad idea, however what people should be concerned about is puncturing the pressure dome. Airliners cruise around 35,000 feet, whereas an average person will start losing cognitive function around 12,000 feet due to a lack of oxygen. As a result, the cabin is pressurized so that passengers don’t have to wear oxygen masks during the flight. Puncturing that dome can be a very serious problem. A bullet hole will cause loss of pressure in the cabin, which means your flight is definitely over. So you better hope it doesn’t happen over the ocean. However, if that hole expands, you can have explosive decompression. That can easily get people killed in and of itself, and cause the airplane to crash as the aircraft becomes almost impossible to control. Even in the best case scenario, where the plane lands safely and nobody is hurt, repairing a hole in the pressurized section is a massively expensive and time-consuming operation. The airplane will likely be grounded for weeks, resulting in a loss of revenue, and the repair itself will cost, at a minimum, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and can go into the millions depending on where the hole is located. Say, for example, the hole is in the rear pressure dome. That cannot simply be patched, it has to be completely replaced, which involves completely removing the tail section of the aircraft.

    So yes, it’s a bad idea, just not for these reasons.

    • “However, if that hole expands, you can have explosive decompression. That can easily get people killed in and of itself, and cause the airplane to crash as the aircraft becomes almost impossible to control.”

      Wrong, wrong, and wrong.

      Mythbusters TRIED to cause explosive decompression and failed.

      A handgun bullet hole in the cabin will NOT cause people to die from oxygen deprivation. It takes a long time to depressurize the ginormous volume of the cabin … plenty of time for pilots to deploy oxygen masks and get the aircraft to 10,000 feet.

      A tiny bullet hole in the outer skin of the fuselage will not cause loss of control of the aircraft. Nor will it cause a giant failure on the outer skin of the fuselage. And even if it did, the plane is still flyable — like the Hawaii airlines 737 jet that lost an entire section of the fuselage (not just the skin) and still landed safely.

      The only part you got close to right is that some holes could cost a lot of money to repair. Most would not.

    • “That cannot simply be patched, it has to be completely replaced, which involves completely removing the tail section of the aircraft.”

      Sorry, but you are just completely incorrect about all of this.

  28. Given that fears of terrorism are heightened on airplanes (no pun intended), a more likely scenario than the ones presented in this piece is:

    -Airline carry is allowed.
    -John “I read jihad-watch-dot-com way too much” Smith and Ahmed “I’m praying loudly, in Arabic, during take-off, so deal with it” Abdullah board the same flight.
    -Joe sees this threatening display of foreign-ness, decides this is his ‘let’s roll’ moment.
    -Chaos ensues.

  29. I wouldn’t worry about someone going crazy and using it to hijack the plane, we’re talking about lawful concealed carriers here.

    Still, I don’t really see a need for airline carry. They search everyone well enough, and it’s not like 200 passengers can’t easily overpower a few nuts.

  30. A corollary of the layers of security to get on a plane mitigate your need for one on board but in the opposite direction is the dearth of medical support while isolated in the aluminum tube. Without that medical support it would seem by some (the law suit world) that allowing another mechanism for serious injury onto the plane without providing a commensurate medical expertise to deal with it would be negligent. Would it not? A heart attack is not the airlines fault. But by definition an ND is negligence that the airline has contributed too by allowing. An ND is more likely in their calculation than a hijacking.
    An intentional criminal act in spite of all the security that the federal agency TSA provides, makes the airlines pretty immune to a lawsuit. Allowing carry without some objective standard of training is for them just opening a big shit box with no benefit to them at all.
    Private entity, private decisions.

  31. From a theoretical standpoint, it’s possible that a well placed bullet could bring down the plane. Is it likely? Nope. Bullets pose very little risk to fuel tanks and lines because they are self-sealing. Explosive decompression? Not a large enough pressure differential for that to be an issue. Hydraulic failure? That’s what redundancy is for although it is possible albeit highly improbable. I would be more worried about all the pilots getting killed by some terrorist or stray bullets, but even that is unlikely, otherwise the God’s probably wouldn’t have created the Air Marshall program.

  32. The author is dead wrong about one thing, Lauren enforcement personnel who fly armed have little to no training on the subject matter.

    I have flown armed for years and I can tell you that the TSA class is practically nonsense.

    • I’m not sure he wrote this. Take the word plane out of his third paragraph and you have:

      “If carry is allowed, there will eventually be a negligent discharge. The Gods of probability virtually demand that it happens at some point. And I have three very good reasons why it is in my best interest (as well as the rest of the public) to make sure to minimize the probability of that round going off.”

      And then he goes on to list some hypothetical situations that I have never heard of happening on any plane, despite firearms being carried on almost every aircraft since they were invented.

      What the heck??????

      • Sorry let me correct myself. He cited a bunch of real events, one of them involved a gun. I don’t believe any of them involved a nd.

      • There’s a huge difference between a ND on the ground and one in the air.

        ND on the ground and its no big deal. Maybe one person gets hit.

        ND in the air in the wrong place, and hundreds of people die.

        There’s a rather large shift on the “consequences” side of the risk equation that tips the scales.

        • Even if we assume that your consequences are accurate, the risk side of the equation is effectively zero for all of the reasons that the aerospace engineer types have stated.

        • I hear what you’re saying Nick and I don’t want to carry a gun on a plane but the 1 person vs hundreds of ppl sounds like a “we’ll let you have muskets but not 100 round clips” argument.

          I agree generally that a person probably could not fire a gun in self defense safely on a plane. I just disagree with your reasons.

        • how many planes have crashed due to a golden BB ND?

          you should start writing for the brady campaign with this level of fear mongering over a slight possibility of having a worst case scenario happening.

  33. You could make the same argument in favor of gun control – “negligent discharge” or even banning guns in general. The ultimate question is at what price can we put on freedom?

    I would also like to ask – how many airlines have fallen from the sky due to weather related accidents? Maintenece issues? User error? Mechanical failure? My guess is if these issues will always be more probable and have a greater number of instances of occurring than negligent discharges if carrying were currently allowed. No one is safe from the random acts of uncertainty anyways.

    • One could argue that as unlikely as a ND on a plane might be, its still orders or magnitude more likely than an occurrence of the problem airplane carry would aim to address (hijacking or other acts of violence aboard an airplane).

      If a ND is like a sasquatch sighting, then a hijacking is like seeing the sasquatch riding a unicorn into the mouth of the lockness monster.

  34. I am against airplane carry for the simple fact of I don’t want to get shot by someone trying to be a hero. Think about the 4 rules, can you be certain of your target and what is beyond it when stuck in a metal tube densely packed with friendlies hurtling through the air at 600MPH? If you were walking down a crowded public street and someone tried to mug you while you are shoulder to shoulder with 100 other people? On an airplane it is worse, because there is almost nowhere you can aim that isnt likely to cover someone else, and nobody can get out of your way. Now I have seen mythbusters where they intentionally fire a bullet (9mm I believe) through the fuselage and a the window both with completely unimpressive results, so Im not really concerned about damage inflicted on the plane from a shot. Again Im concered with the very high concentration of people and innocents bystanders who are strapped to their seats. There is barely enough room for one person to walk down the aisle, and some planes barely have enough head room for a normal person to stand up in the aisle much less under the overhead bins. Not ideal circumstances for getting a clean shot and not accidentally shooting someone else. About the only chance you have for a clean shot is terrorist running up the aisle and you step out of your seat aiming towards the rear of the plane, that’s relatively low risk, well except you are aiming at the rear pressure bulkhead, go read about JAL 123, an improper repair on a tiny hole in the pressure bulkhead ripped 3/4’s of the vertical stabilizer off and took all the major hydraulic systems with it.

    Turn the tables on that same scenario, guy three rows ahead of you stands up screams something and runs to the front of the plane, you step out into the aisle draw and shoot, you have now sent a bullet downrange that if you miss is almost certainly going to find its way into the back of one of the pilots’ heads or through the front window. Because of the way they sit in the cockpit, your shot aimed center of mass on a bad guy is head height on a sitting pilot.

    Again, airplane carry is monumentally stupid, if only for the simple reason Nick stated… Airports are gun free zones, but they make a best effort to actually ensure that they are gun free on the secured side (well at least post 9/11). Several layers have to break down for a terrorist to get on a plane with a gun. Arguing the contrary only reinforces the paranoid delusional stereotype, come on people be reasonable. I would warrant there are some people who look at the Chipotle ninjas and think “I at least kind of understand why they would do that” but you just come accross as delusional when you are like “I should be able to carry my guns on an airplane”… no you shouldnt, shut up and sit down.

    • Tex300BLK,

      There are three problems with your argument:
      (1) Your argument applies to any crowded location like sports stadiums, buses, and commuter trains. Do we thus forbid concealed carry in every crowded place?
      (2) Your argument cedes crowded places to violent criminals. While I don’t want to be collateral damage in a crowded location, I really don’t want violent criminals frequenting crowded locations because they can operate with impunity.
      (3) Your argument ignores the fact that the people who are rubbing shoulders with the spree killer will almost immediately take him/her down. They are, after all, literally rubbing shoulders with a person who is actively trying to shoot people — they have no choice but to take down the spree killer.

    • Yes, concerning decompression folks can Google for:
      Aloha Airlines Flight 243,
      United Airlines Flight 811.

      Whether a gun shot could cause the prerequisite damage I don’t know.

  35. Even the most uneducated firearm owners know you always make sure what’s behind your target, but if you did have a DGU on an airplane how are you going to know when it is or isn’t safe to pull the trigger? Besides the other 400 people on board you have no idea what potentially vital system you may take out, even if you do hit the target. I’d have no problem with someone carrying a taser or knife, but IMHO anyone arrogant enough to suppose they can responsibly use a firearm on a plane either has a whole lot of training that I don’t or shouldn’t be carrying a firearm in the first place.

  36. One of the dangers of blogging is that you can come to believe your opinion is broadly useful instead of narrowly interesting.

    Especially if your blog gets big.

  37. “The problem with guns on airplanes is that the probability of stopping a hijacking is lower than the probability that someone will put a round into one of the engines.”

    I can’t read this without hearing, A gun in the home is way more likely to be used to kill you or a family member than it is to defend yourself. Source: my hysterical imagination.

      • I’m not saying that I can treat an airplane like my home and eat cerial in my underware.

        I’m just saying that your RKBA is not dependent upon the how likely you are to need it.

        Maybe my comparison above is an unfair jump but his exact argument on that is constantly used to make your and my rights dependent upon demonstration of needs.

  38. Central planners always suffer from an extra helping of self-confidence, and our man Leghorn here seems to be no exception. Regardless of whether one agrees with the concerns raised in this post (I do not), the FAA, TSA, and other bureaucracies should’t have beans to say about carry on planes. Let the airlines (you know, the property owners) decide, and may a thousand flowers bloom.

    • That’s what I wrote above. Let airlines decide what to allow. We could have airlines that do not allow concealed carry to compete with those that do and let the market decide. My guess is that most people, even if they chose not to carry, would feel safer flying on the CCW friendly airline. I mean, we take a risk either way, but I’d feel much safer knowing that random passengers on my flight were carrying a gun. And again, I’m sure many people out there wouldn’t board such airline, which is fine. But at least we could all choose how to fly.

  39. Military jets are a lot more delicate than people realize. They are not tanks, they are high performance machines mostly made of fiberglass. Think NASCAR vs humvee. The solution is often “don’t get shot.” Cargo planes are another story. The military accepts a higher risk threshold for their aircraft and personnel than commercial carriers, and for that reason I would feel safer on a Southwest jet than a C-130 any day of the week (pilot skill being equal).

    That being said, I think a training-heavy license is far more (albeit, not very) likely than a CC free-for-all at altitude anytime soon. I know, shall not be infringed blah blah blah.

  40. When I was growing up, my dad’s best friend was a captain for United. This was about the same time that hijacking an aircraft to Cuba was the thing to do. His answer was a simple one. Put a loaded .38 in the seat pouch of every row that had only adults. Anyone acting up would be stopped in a heartbeat.

    The problem with allowing carry on an aircraft has absolutely nothing to do with the microscopic chance that an ND would bring it out of the sky.

    It has everything to do with the fact that not all that many people would likely carry onboard. Who would carry though? A group of people bent on doing harm, that’s who. All they have to do is have a good enough record to get a CCW, and they can carry onboard. Then you’ve got three or four armed hijackers with maybe (if you’re lucky) one good guy? That’s not going to end well. Bottom line, unless you can guarantee that there will be enough “good guys” onboard to stop the bad guys, then you need to keep it prohibited.

  41. One of the reasons California wanted a ban on .50 caliber rifles was the fear terrorists would use them to down airliners. This was proven to a over statement. Trying to hit a a plane going 200-400 miles per hour while maneuvering a 30 pound rifle will prove……difficult. If terrorists managed to commandeer a jet liner with box cutters, I would be more open to passengers being allowed to keep guns in their bags, purses. Or keeping knives.

  42. As somebody who was authorized to carry on commercial aircraft, and did for about a year it is absolutely a pain in the ass. It is about the absolute worst place you want to get in a gun fight. And unless you are a Air Marshal, you need to get to the airport real early to deal with security. The fact it took sometimes almost 2 hours to get thru security and how uncomfortable sitting in a aircraft seat was made me give that up.

    • But wouldn’t it be great if we all had a choice? We could do away with the TSA, hire private security and let each airline decide on their CCW policy. I think eventually we would end up with something like this:

      Airline A: CCW allowed, no restrictions
      Airline B: CCW allowed, some restrictions (proof of training etc)
      Airline C: CCW not allowed.

      My guess is that over time, most people would choose either A or B. And I’d feel much safer flying with an airline that allows CCW, rather than put my trust in the TSA.

  43. It would make sense to allow passengers the option to carry a Taser after acquiring a special license to do so that way a high jacking could be averted with little to no risk to the aircraft.

  44. as has been eluded to in other posts: regardless of how you feel about plane carry, if i had to list every possible way the government infringes on my 2A rights, the lack of legal commercial airplane carry may literally be at the bottom.

  45. No jet carry for you. If ISIS does an attack no anything on your jumbo jet. Which is why we need PROFILING…+1 Ralph. ( but that might upset our Muslim in Chief)…

  46. Nick’s FUD aside, there already IS a group that routinely flies while carrying concealed – the Federal Air Marshals. And I haven’t heard of any of them bringing down an airplane due to a discharge, negligent or otherwise.

    The article almost sounds like it was written by the TSA blogger (whatshisname). Travel by train. It’s safer. They fall more often than airplanes, but the body count is lower when they do.

  47. Old passions and interests, bump into current place and time. (thanks Robert)

    When I started to read this, when I saw RF, the “car guy in me” had a momentary brain fart. Then I had a little laugh. To those of us of a certain age or “era” that are into cars, seeing RF, brought Custom car builder and creator “BIG Daddy” Ed Roth to mind.

    Now back to the more thoughtful discussion.
    Interesting thoughts respectively.
    Hummmmmmm! Just curious. Does anyone know if any of the PERPS of any active shooter situations (of legal age- that passed NICS background check, buying their guns), happen to have gotten a CC license?

  48. Repeated tests by Boeing and Airbus have found that penetrating gun shots do not cause explosive decompression. Nor are they likely to penetrate enough of the aircraft to open a hydraulic, fuel, electric, or even air conditioning line.

    And, up until the 1960s, it was perfectly legal to carry a gun on an airplane, whether on your person or in your carry-on. Even so, pilots and Air Marshals still carry on domestic (and some international) flights. The only known negligent discharge by an aircrew sidearm was directly related to his government issued holster, and only upon landing. Air Marshals are a different story, but it’s pretty well equally rare.

    There was an article published here on TTAG a while ago that covered this subject pretty well. I’m surprised that Nick didn’t at least try a cursory search (which is powered by Google no less) before simply rehashing old, tired gun-grabber garbage.

  49. I don’t fly but if I did I have a fancy smancy Law Enforcement Flying Armed certification from the FAA. All I have to do is have my employing agency send a teletype to the TSA and show my credentials at the checkpoint. Funny thing, carrying a gun and badge and you still get groped by the TSA and stabbed for explosives.

    • Yeah, it’s not that simple. You have to have an NLETS number, which you get by your agency sending a request for one, usually through the LEADS/NCIC system. Additionally, just asking for one wont get you one, you have to have a “valid” reason to carry armed on a commercial flight and “just because” or “I’m going on vacation” is not considered a good reason, it has to be something law enforcement related like you’re doing a prisoner transport, etc. Also, the NLETS number is only good for the specific flight or flights listed, it’s not a license to carry on a flight anytime you want. The NLETS message has to list the your information as well as the specific flight(s) you’ll be travelling on, dates, times, etc. If any of that is missing, you wont get through security. The officer also has to complete a TSA/FAA “flying armed” class…which is honestly pretty pitiful. As for the being groped by security part, if it happened then the TSA checkpoint supervisor was distinctly uninformed. Once a LEO flying armed declares to the TSA TDC (travel document checker, first person who checks your ID and ticket), they are escorted through the checkpoint by a supervisor, bypassing the xray, walk through metal detector, whole body imager, etc. Then their creds and paperwork are double checked by the TSA supervisor and usually an airport police officer. Then they have to sign a written “flying armed” log maintained by the TSA, which is then signed by the TSA supervisor and the airport LEO. Their bags and person do not get the same screening as a normal John Q Citizen. All the above is for a state or local LEO flying armed, the process is different for a federal LEO. Full disclosure, I used to work for the TSA and currently work as a police officer at a large airport so I have a fairly unique perspective on this. I have to deal with this stuff daily. Any questions, ask away; I’ll do my best to answer them.

  50. No need to crucify Nick; especially the comparison to Dick Metcalf. I like to see all sides of an issue, and it would be interesting to read a rebuttal from Robert.

  51. “I can think of a couple very good reasons why guns on airplanes for poorly-trained individuals is a bad idea.

    “If plane carry is allowed, there will eventually be a negligent discharge.”

    So there should be a minimal proficiency level for concealed carry holders? Because that sure is what the above seems to be saying, that if there is not a ‘minimum proficiency level’ then there will eventually be a negligent discharge.

    Of course, in all the years of the federal program that allows air marshals and qualified (yes, ‘trained’) pilots to concealed carry on airplanes there has been exactly ONE negligent discharge, and the reason for that was determined to be the poor policy of requiring pilots to put a padlock thru the trigger part of the holster prior to getting off the plane. A policy that has since been changed.

    • Not exactly a fair comparison. Your ground based negligent discharge will affect yourself and possibly another one or two other people directly. Your airborn negligent discharge has the [i]potential[/i] to kill everybody on that plane [i]and[/i] injure scores on the ground.

      …Or it could just go through a couple layers of aluminum and merely scare the shit out of everybody.

      But seriously. We’re not even in the same risk catagory here and if such a system did exist, damn right I would want you specifically qualified for transporting and employing it in an airborn environment. Pretending they’re even close to the same fails pretty hard, imo.

  52. Require frangible ammo to be used in onboard carry. Plastic or nylon bullets that will penetrate flesh but breakup on hitting airplane structure.

    I recall reading about this in John Ross’ “Unintended Consequence”. Henry Bowman made his own out of nylon bar stock.

    • Frangible ammo performs like shit and offers no advantages other than as a feel good kinda thing. It really doesn’t matter where you shoot on a modern airplane, the bullet is not going to bring it down. Shooting through the bad guy and killing somebody else is possible but the chances of that are slim and the risk of poor performance far outweighs the possible benefits of frangible ammo.

  53. “Less than a minute after takeoff everyone on board was dead, barbecued alive.”

    is this an accurate way to describe how people died on Air France 4590? because the plane crashed into a hotel. i don’t think anyone actually BURNED to death.

  54. I suppose we need to get rid of all the Air Marshals, too. And pilots can’t have guns. And law enforcement officers engaged in official duties need to be stripped of their guns. Because if you allow all of these people to carry on a plane (as they do all the time) then they are prone to the same mistakes that everyone else makes. The “trained professional” argument is a false proposition that has been disproved repeatedly. But somehow these people manage to carry guns on planes every day, all over the country, with very few mishaps.

    Realistically, the outcome of allowing guns on planes would be…..nothing. Both sides run around screaming that the sky is falling. The most die-hard gun rights proponents will scream that we must have guns on planes in order to stop airborne terrorists. The Brady Camplaign will scream that planes will just start dropping from the sky. Ultimately, both are wrong. Blood will not run in the streets. Nor would Al Qaeda just give up. Here is what would be different: We would be just a little bit more free. And freedom is a good thing.

  55. I fly light aircraft and carry. As a result, once shook the hand of a former president while armed at a small airport. His biz jet was tied down next to my rented Arrow or Archer (I forget) when I can back from working in East Bejesus down the road from the Presidential birthplace. The two Secret Service guys didn’t ask and I didn’t tell. Typically it’s in my flight bag w/o one in the pipe while flying, hard to imagine what it would be good for in flight. Yes, I remembered to wash my hands.

  56. I’m a GA pilot. I sincerely hope that you complete your training and get your certificate. You need to fly more frequently… To the topic at hand — there are a decent number of carriers in the GA part 91 world. It’s probably most correlated with the area of the country you’re in, but they’re out there. I personally have a visceral objection to airline carry that I can’t substantiate. This article (and comments) challenge me to logically consider the viewpoint and I can’t really think of a good reason not to allow carrying on airlines. Every argument can be applied to a bus or stadium or ferry. The reasons laid out in this article are bogus. They are absolutely cherry picked to show a semblance of reason, but mostly demonstrate a lack of understanding about the events and systems. The expressed and lingering concern is that an ND would be catastrophic. By itself it wouldn’t be. It would take a lot more circumstances combined with an ND to be catastrophic. But then you’re throwing ad-homonym hypotheticals and nothing can withstand that kind of “attack”.

  57. The whole “air specific licensing” scheme weakens your argument considerably, as it almost definitionally will have no effect on negligent / accidental discharge probabilities. On a wider level, it also signals buy inn to the same line of fallacious and disastrous thinking that gives “licensed” security personell more rights than those not, licensed heath care providers privileges, etc. Please kick that particular habit while you still can…..

    What about just letting airlines decide? As long as added risk is almost exclusively to voluntarily flying passengers and employees, no need to enforce things one way or the other. Until both sides of the coin has been thouroughly tested fir safety/convenience/….. All we’re doing is engaging in mindless speculation anyway. And mindless speculation is a poor excuse for limiting people’s freedoms.

  58. The main problem with your argument is the failure to use history. Taking guns on planes happened all the time back in the day and still does in small countries. Quit hanging out with Bloomberg and sack up.

  59. “You’ve got jet lag all of the time. You’re on a plane, and you just can’t stay awake. You drink coffee until you’re sick.

    Even if you had the day off before, you’re hanging out with your wife and family, you’re not sleeping that much. So you’re exhausted when you start.

    You need to be well-rested and vigilant all the time. I’m a good shot. I can jump on a seat and shoot the target every time, but if I had to do it exhausted — with bad guys and human shields thrown in — it’s definitely not a good idea.

    The condition we were in — most of the time the passengers would probably be safer if we weren’t on the plane. I was never able to feel alert like I’d feel alert if I were on a normal sleep schedule.”

    The idea of keeping well trained civilians off the airlines is nonsense, Leo;s miss their targets during gunfights 80% of the time. As the government has no duty to protect the individual the citizens must defend themselves. As a trial court judge I carry a firearm everyday, including in court, a Beretta M9.

  60. The author does seem open to the idea of a special airplane CCW after receiving airplane specific training. I think having such a CCW would enable off duty law enforcement as well as regular citizens the ability to stop a high jacking before the plane can reach it’s target.

  61. It would be great if at the first sign of hijacking everything except the guys flying the plane would be gassed with laughing gas. no guns needed, and yeah I’m pro gun on the ground, hate flying now since the TSA like touching ppls junk….that giving up freedom for safety they can keep it.

  62. I think you are like the person who picks up a gun for the first time. In other words, “Your 20 hours of flight time is showing”.

    I only have 430 hours. But I think the idea of being allowed to CCW on a plane is a great idea. You have given examples of plane crashes… Let me ask this, how many were because of a gunshot? Oh, thats right – NONE.

    You will claim that there are no guns on a plane, but that is not true. There are Federal Flight Deck Officers on the plane and they have had a few ND’s and not a SINGLE plane has gone down because of it and it was in the cockpit. We also have armed Federal agents transporting criminals and Sky Marshals… NONE of which have brought down a plane with an ND.

    Yes, many LEO’s have higher training. But many only qualify when the department requires it and many CHL holders shoot IPDA and beat LEO’s all the time.

    Your claim of a hydraulics failure shows you ignorance of modern control systems. They have backups for a reason. The DC10 crash was due to an engine exploding and taking out TWO of the hydraulic systems. It was the preverbal “golden bullet”.

    Your post seems firmly stuck in fear of something you do not really understand. In this, you are no different than the person that thinks no citizen should be allowed to carry for their fear of an ND. What makes you think YOU are correct in your fear and they are “unreasonable”?

  63. Pretty silly stuff from someone who isn’t even a pilot yet. Concealed carry permit holders are the safest people in the world, and very basic safety procedure guarantees there will never be an accidental discharge. However little he knows about planes at this point, he knows nothing about odds, or about gun owners.

    In point of fact, there is also nothing inherently dangerous about a discharge on a plane, other than hitting the wrong person. The plane will not catch fire and explode, nor will it decompress because of a bullet hole.

    And, in fact, guns are carried on planes routinely, and all over the world. Guns in holsters are not dangerous. Terrorists who manage to smuggle so much as a razor blade on a plane are. The terrorists who crashed planes into the World Trace Center, and into the Pentagon, had no guns, but were still able to control the planes.

    It amazes me how much time people spend worrying about things that might happen, but that have never actually happened even once. Not once, ever. Yet they accept dangers that really do happen fairly often.

    I suppose it’s through ignorance, but most people are not at all logical, and this includes teh writer of this article.

  64. It would probably make more sense to outfit the airliners with pig’s blood dispensers to ensure a certain peaceful segment of society does not use the airliner as a missile..

  65. Let’s not forget some important facts that many are forgetting here.

    Airports are for the most part private property in the United States JFK May service the public traveller but it is owned by the Port Authority of NY/NJ. This invalidates any public property CCW arguments.

    Next, Air travel is interstate commerce which is within the authority of the Government to regulate. Additionally, a compelling public safety argument can also be tendered by the Government to prohibit such CCW carry.

    States vary in their CCW requirements or lack thereof in legality. Won’t work.
    Finally, most gun owners couldn’t shoot with the precision required for Hostage Rescue accuracy with a handgun on a moving and rolling linear platform.

    Although such arguments in support of CCW on aircraft are well intentioned, they are basically idiotic.

  66. Prior to the high jacking sprees in the 70’s and 80’s it was common practice for hunters traveling by plane to hand carry rifles on the plane. Never one incident of an accident. This weak sister worrying over every possible thing that might go wrong is what’s wrong with our society today.

  67. “A negligent discharge on the ground isn’t the end of the world”

    It is if that ND round hits and kills someone. Perhaps its better not to be flippant about rounds popping off.

  68. The author is displaying an appalling lack of trust in those who obtain CCW permits, and his points are not remotely within the realm of expected outcomes. Millions of people carry every day, and don’t crank off a round negligently. The same would be the case on aircraft. As long as it stays in the holster, what’s the issue?
    Now, I do think that carrying on planes requires a bit higher standard for marksmanship, but those who can pass the current FAM course of fire should be able to carry, I think. Make it an optional qualification that one can have along with their CCW permit, that must be done cold, no notice, no warm up, just like the real qualification.

  69. This story reminds me of the people who argue that you should never open carry “because it announces to the bad guys that you are armed so they will target you first”. Make believe, Hollywood special effects scenarios do not happen in the real world. Mythbusters has made a career proving that to people.

  70. Since the Supreme Court ruled that “sensitive areas” are kosher for restrictions, it must be acknowledged that if ever there WAS as “sensitive area”, it is on a commercial airliner.

    It is as much of a no-brainer as carry in jails, prisons, mental wards and criminal courtrooms.

    Put a well-trained air marshal (or two) on every flight, and the question becomes moot.

    • Since a bunch of agenda-biased people no one ever voted for said some stuff while wearing black robes reality has been redefined.

      When you hear someone say “no-brainer” it’s usually because that’s how they formed their opinion. Jails, prisons, mental wards and criminal court rooms are not even close to the same thing as a commercial air-liner. That’s like comparing apples to jellyfish, dung beetles, crotch sweat and fingernails.

      The good old “well trained” protector argument. Please put someone in charge of my safety because I can’t handle the responsibility,

  71. Can you imagine a world where people could carry firearms on a plane!?!?!?! Well, can you imagine about 60yrs ago? All these terrible things we need protected from that we never did before.

  72. Biggest airplane tragedy was 9/11. About 1000 deaths per each of the three airplanes. The nineteen hijackers were armed with boxcutters and plastic knives (no guns). Where guns are banned is the most dangerous place (schools for example, and airplanes.) Airports are gun free zones (until an armed killer arrives).

    Air marshalls carry guns on airplanes: how many negligent discharges have occurred ?

    The author is just another pacifist who knows nothing about self defense and guns.

  73. Glad too see another poorly formed opinion by nick. I guess we shouldn’t allow carry in public otherwise people will just be having a shoot out at the OK corral.

  74. In summary:

    I am able to imagine a scenario in which we all die a horrible death and therefore its a REALLY bad idea, like seriously guys!

    1. The author rests his argument on faulty premise, an appeal to probability fallacy.
    2. The author then uses that premise as support for “three” reasons which are in fact only one reason to oppose airline carry.
    3. The only reason actually given is that in the highly unlikely event of an ND on an airplane their is an even more unlikely possibility that it could cause a catastrophic event and “I don’t want to die.”

    As the author wishes to mitigate the risk of a horrific death and feels that such a desire merits the exclusion of any risk however minor he should probably stop flying all together as their are a multitude of scenarios that could bring down a plane that are significantly more likely to happen than the scenarios he imagines.

  75. Sorry Nick Leghorn, but you don’t know as much about aviation or aircraft as you’d like to believe. 1, jet a isn’t as flammable as you believe,yes it is fuel, but gasoline,and/or avgas is much more flammable. Also, fuel lines do not run through the cabin on aircraft with fuselage mounted engines. Those lines are routed through aerodynamic fairings. The same goes for hyd lines, and most hydraulic components are in the aft of the aircraft and also not in the pressurized cabin. The only legit concern wouldbbe the pilots, being as how the door is bullit proof but the bulkhead its attached to is not.

  76. No mention of frangible ammo, whether issued or inspected prior to boarding? That in itself is a relatively simple matter to regulate, but would have undermined every point in this article to the extent that he would have had to write a very different piece.

  77. Having 20 hours in a Cessna or 600 hours still doesn’t qualify you to talk about how things work in a modern commercial airliner. Just because a guy has taken a few flying lessons does not an expert make.

    Negligent discharges could indeed happen, they could happen anywhere that a human manipulates a loaded firearm. Would a single shot from a pistol down an aircraft? probably not. Is the Jet-A going to explode if a piece of lead hits the tank? probably not – I mean think about how many hundreds of thousands of hours these planes are flying and yet only one or two have “exploded” due to a spark in the tank and one of them was Flight 800, where there’s still a quandry over where that “spark” originated from.

    Commercial planes are leaky, they constantly have to add pressure to the cabin to maintain the pressure required to keep the inhabitants conscious. The older aircraft had a vent in the cockpit to be able to use a sextant to do celestial navigation as a last ditch effort to find their way. when that port was opened did the whole top of the cockpit blow out? no. It was mostly used so pilots could sneak a cigarette and the pressure differential would suck the smoke out and nobody was any the wiser.

    Comparing the damage of an inflight catastrophic separation of a multi-thousand-rpm fan disk to a round from a pistol is not entirely fair either, the kinetic energy in those fragments were several orders of magnitude larger than a bullet would be and because there were so many they hit all 3 hydraulic lines in the tail and the plane pumped all the fluid out. Since that incident airliners have check valves now to stop the non-stop pumping of fluid if there’s a large leak.

    There are plenty of things to worry about but concealed carriers on aircraft is not very high on my list.

  78. The arguments in this article are as infuriatingly uninformed about modern aircraft and how they work as a liberal gun grabber’s arguments are toward all things guns. Having the vast experience of being “nearly ready to solo” is the equivalent of “I shot my grandpa’s gun once”. Please, stick to what you know when writing articles for mass publication.

  79. “20 hours”, eh?

    Well, based on my 20 YEARS as a military aviation mechanic, (C-130’s, MH-53’s and A-10’s), you are greatly over-exagerating the issue.

    Your “single misplaced round” event is possible, but wildly improbable, just as the Concorde example you gave.

    And you proved how easy it is to take over a disarmed plane, with a single revolver. Huh, thanks for proving our case for us…..

  80. Actually, the goal would be accomplished by handing out nice sharp roofing hatchets as the passengers board, then collectiong them again as they deplane.

  81. The Nay side has nothing valid to base their claims on.

    People carry firearms (frequently fully loaded) on military aircraft all the time. Negligent discharges on-board are nearly unheard-of, and I know of no incident that involved crashing the aircraft.

    My personal credentials? 22 years of USAF aviation maintenance on both tactical and mobility aircraft.


    Edit: As I hear it, many (perhaps most) aircraft in Alaska have weapons on board, and I’ve heard of no problems.

  82. There would be dropped guns, guns left in bathrooms, guns taken out to show them off, guns forgotten in seat pockets….

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