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Story highlights

Official: The pilot threw bullets in trash, then flushed them down toilet

The pilot reported incident after plane landed in Munich, Germany, official says

The pilot is still an employee for the airline, United says

CNN —  

A United Airlines pilot first threw live ammunition in the trash, then flushed it down a toilet on an international flight – an episode that spurred the involvement of German authorities and an investigation by the airline.

The incident unfolded aboard a flight from Houston to Munich in June.

After forgetting he had the ammunition in his luggage, the pilot initially put the bullets in a garbage can, an official with knowledge of the investigation said.

A passenger saw the bullets in the trash, reported it to a flight attendant, who then told the captain, according to the official. That’s when the captain flushed the ammunition down a toilet.

The pilot reported what happened after landing in Munich, and German authorities retrieved the bullets from the plane, the official said.

United acknowledged this week that a pilot had “improperly disposed of ammunition during a flight last month from Houston to Munich.”

“We are reviewing the incident, and the pilot remains an employee,” the airline said in a statement.

Under federal law, a pilot is allowed to carry weapons, but only in the United States.

“Under the Federal Flight Deck Officer program, eligible flight crew members are authorized by the Transportation Security Administration to use firearms to defend against an act of criminal violence or air piracy attempting to gain control of an aircraft,” the TSA said.

Eligible crew members are not allowed to bring firearms or ammunition when flying outside the United States or when not on duty.

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