DALLAS – A United Airlines captain piloting a plane to Germany flushed bullets down a toilet on board the flight last month, after first disposing them in a trash bin accessible to passengers.
United spokeswoman Karen May acknowledged Thursday the pilot shouldn’t have thrown the bullets in the toilet. She said the pilot hasn’t been fired but the incident is still under investigation.
She said the pilot is allowed to carry a gun on domestic flights under a post-9/11 federal program intended to make planes more difficult to hijack. May said the pilot dumped the bullets in a waste bin then in a toilet after realizing he had them in his bag on a June 23 flight from Houston to Munich. Germany has strict gun laws.
"He did incorrectly dispose of the ammunition," May said, "but it is likely that the pilot is not going to face any criminal charges."
The Transportation Security Administration and Federal Aviation Administration didn’t immediately respond to requests for comments.
United declined to give the pilot’s name. He is very likely to be every experienced – it takes years of seniority for pilots to become captains on international flights for major American airlines.
May didn’t say whether the pilot has been grounded.
"We are investigating," she said. "I can't give any details about his status other than he is still with us."
The Aviation Herald reported the bullets were found during a search for a ring a passenger had lost on the flight. A flight attendant recovered the bullets from a waste bin and gave them to the captain.
The captain then flushed the bullets down the toilet and alerted German authorities when he realized the flight attendant would report the incident, according to the Herald.
After landing in Munich, the plane taxied to a remote area where passengers got off and the waste tanks were emptied to find the bullets.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.