CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The pilot of a US Airways plane may have mishandled a firearm that went off in flight, piercing a hole in the cockpit wall, a federal air marshal said Tuesday.
The pistol, a .40 caliber semiautomatic H&K USP, discharged Saturday aboard Flight 1536 from Denver to Charlotte as the plane was approaching to land. Photos show a small entry hole in the lower side of the cockpit wall and a small exit hole on the exterior below the cockpit window.
The Associated Press described the photos it obtained and the bullet hole to US Airways spokesman Phil Gee, who said “they sound authentic.”
Airline officials have said the accidental discharge Saturday aboard the plane did not endanger the 124 passengers and five crew members on board, although air safety experts said Tuesday the shot could have caused the plane to rapidly depressurize — had it hit a window at high altitude.
“There are two issues: Would they (the crew) have enough oxygen to remain alert,” said Earl Dowell, an aeronautical engineering professor at Duke University. “If the crew could no longer control the airplane that would be a big deal. And the rapid loss of pressure might damage the structure itself.”