The incident exposes the fact that pilots in the US have been authorised to carry guns since the September 2001 terror attacks.
An investigation has been launched after a Delta Airlines pilot left a handgun in the cockpit of an aircraft after landing in Atlanta. The weapon was found by an airport ground worker, the Associated Press reports.
The carrier has not released the pilot’s name and has not commented on whether the pilot has been disciplined since the incident occurred last month – questions which are internal personnel matters, a Delta spokeswoman said.
“Delta ground crews followed procedures and turned over to law enforcement an item that was found in the flight deck after the flight’s arrival,” she said in a statement emailed to National Public Radio.
“Delta is working with the relevant authorities in their handling of this case and will conduct its own review.”
Not in harm’s way
The handgun was in fact issued to the pilot by the Transportation Security Administration, according to a TSA spokesman.
“The TSA is aware of an incident at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport involving agency-issued equipment,” he said in a statement to National Public Radio.
“Although we are not at liberty to discuss specific details, we can say that the public was never in harm’s way. The TSA takes all allegations of policy and procedure violations seriously, and when substantiated, appropriate action is taken.”
Pilots with guns
Since the September 2001 terror attacks in the US, when the hijacking of four commercial aircraft led to devastating consequences, a number of pilots have been trained and issued handguns by the Transportation Security Administration under its Federal Flight Deck Officer Program.
This authorises crew members “to use firearms to defend against an act of criminal violence and air piracy while attempting to gain control of an aircraft”.
To be eligible, pilots must have US citizenship, a current Federal Aviation Administration airman certificate, and a current class-one or class-two medical certificate.