“The pilot initially threw the bullets in a rubbish bin before disposing of them in the toilet”
See US pilot flushes bullets down toilet en route to GermanySo, you’re a USAian pilot headed for Europe. You’re used to packing a loaded pistol for protection in flight. That’s not allowed in Germany and you find you have some ammunition aboard… What to do?
This guy probably did the wrong thing on several levels:
- regulatory – Rules are rules. There’s probably a rule against bringing the ammunition to Europe and another against dumping hazardous stuff into the ocean.
- policy – The company probably has procedures laid out for dealing with every conceivable event, even breaking rules by accident.
- safety – Come on! Ammunition raining from the sky or going through a sewage pump is not a good thing…
Before condemning the guy totally, I should confess that, once upon a time, I broke the rules. I was leaving a northern community by air and, in the last-minute tour of my teacherage, I found a packet of razor blades sitting on a high shelf in the bathroom, probably above eye-level with my normal slouch. Without thinking, I tossed them in my pocket and headed for the airport. Somewhere in my subconscious, I knew they weren’t allowed on flights in the civilized world but I was in the Arctic headed for a gravel strip with zero security. Getting me and my stuff to the airport without losing anything was the number one mission. Along the way, I changed planes further south and, having totally forgotten the blades, went through a metal detector… We chucked them in the garbage bin and carried on. To be fair, this pilot made a similar error or two. Also, to be fair, he’s supposed to be professional and continuously aware of the rules/policies/procedures.
I’m sure he could have consulted with crew or phoned home and asked what to do. Likely a meeting with security/management in Germany would have been mild compared to being in the news…
Anyway, in Canada, there’s actually criminal law on the matter. Anyone coming into possession or losing firearms/ammunition is required to report to police. Ignorance is not even an excuse. You’re guilty until proven innocent. The law applies to everyone, not just firearms owners, with or without a licence. Johnny picks up a round on the ground somewhere. He’s a criminal if he’s over 18, maybe younger, and has no licence to possess the material. The stupid rule even applies to discarded empty cartridges… It’s up to the discretion of police whether or not to lay charges.
Then, there’s safety. Getting rid of ammunition is legitimate. It could be not permitted, old, unwanted, whatever… The right procedure is to contact authorities for advice. Lacking that at cruising altitude out of radio contact might pose a problem but something better than flushing is in order. How about locking it up in some safe? Got pliers? Pull the bullets and wet the contents with something damp like oil or water. Oil will permanently disable the primers. Water will temporarily disable the powder. For good measure mix oil, water and detergent. This process changes ammunition into inert matter, perhaps just components of ammunition technically, bullet and cartridge, stuff a lot more safe. You’d think a pilot would earn some points in his favour by taking these steps but no, he/she dumped them. They may have gone into the ocean or even reached German soil eventually. Who knows?
I’d guess this will sort itself out and depending on the supply of pilots, courtesy, and discretion should not be fatal. It may result in a few lines added to the policy manuals or the checklists.