Delta Pilot Leaves Gun In Cockpit For Aircraft Cleaners To Find


Cleaning crews will find many things aboard an aircraft after the passenger and crew have deplaned. Laptops, tablets, headphones, passports, wallets, phones, and jewelry are all commonly left onboard aircraft. Some of these items are reunited with their owners, while others remain “at-large” never to be seen again. In one instance, however, cleaning crews found something interesting while cleaning a Delta aircraft.

The incident occurred on a Delta plane. Photo: Delta

As reported by Live and Let’s Fly, cleaning crews discovered a handgun in the cockpit of a Delta Airlines aircraft in Atlanta. The incident occurred on February 18th. Not too long before, on January 2nd, a passenger on a flight bound for Tokyo from Atlanta boarded with a gun and ammunition.

Delta released the following statement in regards to the incident:


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. Delta is working with relevant authorities in their handling of this case and will conduct its own review

-Delta Statement

While Delta hasn’t released any specifics about which flight, aircraft, and disciplinary matters will take place, we do know that bringing a firearm into the cockpit was not a violation of any safety regulations since it was approved by TSA. We know this through the statement released by the TSA after the incident:


TSA is aware of an incident at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport involving agency-issued equipment. Although we are not at liberty to discuss specific details, we can say that the public was never in harm’s way.

-TSA Statement

Based on this statement, the pilot was issued the firearm by the TSA and had the relevant qualifications to bring the firearm onboard the aircraft they were on in a similar fashion to U.S. Air Marshals.


In the years after 9/11, as a measure for increased air security, the TSA instituted a program called the “Federal Flight Deck Officer” program. According to the TSA, this program allows pilots, flight engineers, and flight navigators the authorization to bring firearms into the cabin as a defense against any kind of violent criminal activity or air piracy that may occur while in-flight. 

The ground crew seemed to have followed proper procedure as no passengers or crew members were ever in harm’s way and airport operations continued normally. Hartsfield Jackson International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world and a security breach involving a gun could have proven chaotic for airport operations across the United States.

Hartsfield Jackson is one of the busiest airports in the world. Photo: Hartsfield Jackson International Airport

Atlanta sees both mainline and regional service from Delta Airlines and associated partners. Based on Delta’s statement, it seems like this pilot was a mainline employee and not contracted through a regional carrier.

Because we don’t know all of the details behind this incident, there could be a few different scenarios as to how this incident played out. First, if the pilot had to move from one flight to another and the inbound arrived late, the pilot in question could have been in a hurry and accidentally left their firearm in the cockpit of the previous flight. Given that few specific details are known about this incident, there could be multiple explanations for how this occurred.

Delta’s largest hub is in Atlanta. Photo: Hartsfield Jackson International Airport

Ultimately, no matter what, this is a situation that should never have happened. Pilots who are a part of this program do have a responsibility to maintain a safe flying environment for both passengers and fellow crewmembers. Here at Simple Flying, we are thankful for the actions of ground staff and law enforcement that prevented this situation from getting out of hand.

What are your thoughts on this situation? Let us know in the comments below!