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Read & React: Shotgun Shell Found on Plane Delays Flight

by Richard Nance   |  December 5th, 2012 30

Shotgun-shellAccording to Reuters, a passenger aboard a Delta flight preparing to take off from Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport found a shotgun shell in the pocket of the seat in front of him at about 6:47 a.m. Nov. 28. As a result, all passengers had to exit the plane and go through a second security check, according to a sheriff’s official.

A sheriff’s canine was used in an attempt to locate additional contraband, but none was found.

The flight was delayed for about an hour as Transportation Security Administration (TSA) personnel rescreened all passengers. The flight was then cleared for Detroit, its original destination.

The passenger who found the shotgun shell was questioned and released when investigators found nothing suspicious about him, said Fran McLaughlin, a spokeswoman for the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office.

It was not determined how the shotgun shell ended up on the plane, so the question obviously remains, how could this happen?

The fact that a shotgun shell made its way aboard a commercial airline flight may seem shocking, but when you consider the sheer volume of passengers and their carry-on items, the fact that a prohibited item passes through security on occasion should really come as no surprise. All it would take is a momentary loss of concentration by a TSA screener to miss something like a shotgun shell.

While it’s possible that the passenger who brought the shotgun shell onto the plane had evil intent, it could’ve just as easily been overlooked by both the passenger and TSA personnel, and ended up on the plane by accident. Perhaps a passenger who unknowingly possessed the shell removed it from his carry-on and placed it in the seat pocket in front of him to avoid possible repercussions.

So what can you do to increase your safety aboard a plane?

Fortunately in this case, there was no shotgun on board from which the shell could be fired. Had there been a firearm and ammunition aboard the plane and a passenger willing to kill for his cause, nothing short of a well-trained and perfectly timed response, or an intervention by multiple passengers, would’ve likely prevented a tragedy reminiscent of that of Sept. 11.

While the chances of encountering a subject armed with a firearm on a plane are miniscule, a passenger having a violent psychotic episode or an argument between passengers that escalates into a physical altercation is a far less remote possibility.

If the behavior of another passenger presents a danger to you or someone you choose to protect, certain everyday items can be employed to give you the upper hand. An ink pen can be used to stab in a situation where the use of deadly force is justified. A laptop, briefcase or carry-on bag could be used to block an incoming punch or shield yourself from someone trying to stab you with a makeshift weapon. A small, rugged flashlight can also be used for defensive purposes, as well as illumination.

What tips can you think of to increase your personal safety or the safety of your loved ones when flying?

  • Mack Missiletoe

    I think security handled the situation well after the shell was found.

    Good there was no evidence that this was part of an evil plan to hurt others.

  • jiminga

    The "investigation" ignores the possibility the shell was planted by a maintenance crew member for later use by a bad guy. But then the liberal Reuters and TSA would rather claim "nothing to see here, move along" just like when the TSA missed actual weapons carried onto planes.

    • TexMel 42-12

      You are right to suspect that. It was apparent that ground crew must have placed the box cutters onboard in the 9-11 highjackings.

    • Mack Missiletoe

      Wel… you're right and I'm wrong :D

  • conchokid

    Jeez, people! It's hunting season in the midwest. Some pheasant hunter probably had it in his pocket or carry on and either accidenally or intentionally dropped it in the seat pocket.

  • Bill K

    A shotshell, in itself, will never hurt or harm you.. A crew member could have just taken control of it and the plane went on it's way.. Not a big deal

  • Humanoid

    My guess is that it was the person on a previous flight who accidentally brought it aboard. He probably paniced and got rid of it.

    • Mack Missiletoe

      Well that is irresponsible. Just not acceptable.

    • Lucas

      If it was the previous person, he should of kept it and moved on. He already passed security & there's no further security unless he had a connection and then he could have ditched it in a trash can… Just sayin', Im not a criminal but that's what I'd have done.

  • James

    No doubt the shell was take on the plane by accident.

    Would have been better if the shell was tossed into the
    toilet on the plane and it would have been rendered inert.

  • Dfleming

    TSA has to justify its existance. What an disgusting waste of tax dollars.

    • Caribou

      Are you suggesting that a TSA employee placed it to establish a continuing need for their services? Interesting.

  • Mskusna1963

    The situation was handled well. BTW, what brand shot shell is that? Looks European,,,

  • Glenn Blanchard

    i think the person that found it should have pocketed it and walked away with a free shotgun shell. Have you seen the price of ammo lately?

  • Timothyji

    This is absurd. It's a shotgun shell, not a grenade, fercryinoutloud. A flight attendant should have locked it up and carried on as normal. If we are at the point where Americans are so fearful of some undefined "evildoer", waiting to recapitulate 9-11 with a single shotgun shell, then we're in real trouble. The cowardice and submission to authority I see in this article and these comments is more disturbing by far than the damn shotgun shell. TSA and fearmongering right-wing radio and TV have turned us into a nation of little girls.


      "fear mongering right-wing radio and TV have turned us into a nation of little girls."

      I hope that was a type o because if it wasn't, YOU are part of the problem. It's the Left Wing Fear Mongering that is the problem in this country and in the world.

      • Timothyji

        No, not a typo. It wasn't a democrat that came up with the color-code alert system that never dropped below orange, just to keep the sheep ready to run. It wasnt a democrat who fabricated a story about WMD's to scare people into supporting a useless war.

    • Jim


    • johnry

      I agree, write a story when something acually happens. Im tired of everybody acting like frightened children. Write a story when they find the shotgun on the plane, not a single round.

    • John

      Thank you.

  • MMcQuown

    Almost any type of tube could be used as a barrel for a one-time shotgun. Several such devices have been used in novels and might have led to someone experimenting. Better to err on the side of caution. Also, on an X-ray, a shotshell looks a lot like a lipstick tube

  • Charles

    It is simply due diligence. If there is one shotgun shell there might be more. Maybe there is a zip gun on the plane too.

  • Andy

    I personally have accidentally gotten two .45 acp rounds at once on a plane and on a seperate occasion my pocket knife these things happen more thn im sure we think

  • Navy Vet

    To answer the question "What tips can you think of to increase your personal safety or the safety of your loved ones when flying?" I'd say make sure I'm not on the same flight as Illinois Senator Donne Trotter. Who know's what his real motives were?

  • ToryII

    He should have kept his mouth shut. After reporting it, they downed his plane, delayed his flight, and then he became a suspect. LOL.

    Amerika is a nazi dump !!

  • eZachLeeWright

    When I was a kid a friend's father had a lot of problems with the wrong people. One day he got into his car, turned the key and BOOM. He caught nine .32 caliber balls of lead in his chest.. Dead before anyone could get to him. Under the steering column was an eight inch piece of pipe held in place by two nylon zip ties. The bottom end of the pipe had a cap threaded onto it. When the police lab unscrewed the cap they found a spent shotgun shell. The killer had drilled a hole through the cap and inserted a nylon toilet seat bolt which had a smaller hole through it with a a brass cotter pin and a small spring. The cotter pin was connected to a wire that ran about six inches to a splice in the steering column's wiring harness. Of course they had figured out which wire to connect to before they planted the improvised shotgun. The police were intrigued enough to practice putting one of these in a car. Including slim jimming the door until they got it down to six minutes flat to duplicate what the killer had done while my friend's father ate lunch at a cafe. For decades I glanced under the steering column before starting any vehicle. It wasn't the only habit that took years to put in the past. I would always, always drop my key ring as I approached my car. More than a few cars blew up during this period. Many simply had a shoebox slid under the driver's seat while someone watched from a block away holding a remote controller for a model airplane, waiting….. Anyway, back to the airplane security delay. You know there is a shotgun shell waiting on the plane. How hard do you think it would be to for you to get a carry on bag onto the airplane with a piece of pipe, a pipe cap, a cotter pin, and a small spring? My guess is "not hard at all".

    • MAX

      Well said.

  • John

    My goodness, is your name Ian Fleming or just McGiver?

  • frank jackson

    After reading the comments, I wonder what some of these people are doing reading a G&A article. But it did bring back an incident I had before TSA. I was working armed security for the local power company. As a matter of course, I carried a bullet wallet in my back pocket with 12 rounds in it. I got to the terminal to pick up my sister in law and secured my gunbelt and weapon in my vehicle. As I was headed toward the gate I suddenly realized the wallet was still in my back pocket. I continued to security and handed her the wallet and explained that I had forgotten to remove it from my pocket. She wanted to know if the bullets were going to go off while they were in the wallet. I assured her that they would not, but she seemed in almost a panic mode. After meeting the plane, I went back by the security desk and it now had a PD officer at the desk. I explained what had happened and he opened the draw and handed it to me without a problem. People who are not familiar with items should not be placed in a location where they will come in contact with these items. We need more training on what people are going to see and what to do.

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