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Live Shotgun Shell Found In Overhead Bin On Air New Zealand Airbus A320


  • Aircrew found a live shotgun cartridge in the overhead lockers of a flight between Christchurch and Auckland in New Zealand.
  • Passengers traveling domestically in New Zealand must go through airport security, and live ammunition is banned from carry-on luggage.
  • In the past year, the New Zealand Aviation Security Service has removed ammunition from passengers’ luggage 3,658 times, indicating a potential security issue.

On July 10th, an aircrew doing routine checks of the overhead lockers on an Airbus A320 following a flight between Christchurch and Auckland were shocked to find a live shotgun cartridge. Passengers traveling domestically in New Zealand must pass through airport security if traveling on a jet.

New Zealand’s Aviation Security Service (Avsec) was called to the Air New Zealand aircraft for further investigation, with dogs to sniff out explosives. However, no additional ammunition was found.

Air New Zealand A320neo

Photo: Seth Jaworski I Shutterstock

3,678 instances in the past year

To travel with live ammunition, passengers must hold a gun license and seek permission from their respective carriers. However, it is banned from being taken in your carry-on luggage. Avsec has reported that in the past twelve months, 3,658 instances of the aviation security service removing ammo from passengers’ luggage were recorded.

It remains unclear how the cartridge got past airport security, how long it had been there, or who brought it onto the aircraft. However, Avsec Operations Manager, Karen Urwin, noted to New Zealand online news outlet Stuff, that the “most likely scenario was that it was in a hunter’s jacket pocket and fell out in the overhead locker.”

An Air New Zealand Airbus A320 Taking Off.

Photo: Airbus

Urwin noted that it could have been possible for the single cartridge could be brought onboard and passed through security undetected due to its small size. However, if more than one cartridge had been in the hunter’s pockets (if that’s the case), it would have likely been detected.

Passing through security

In New Zealand, turbo-prop domestic flights do not require passengers to pass through airport security; however, those looking to take off on jet services must empty their pockets and pass through the X-ray. Urwin noted that all passengers passing through security would have been required to take off heavy coats and carry-on bags passed through the x-ray machines for screening.

“Our people are highly specialized at assessing the images and identifying restricted items. If an item is missed, and we can identify when and by whom it was missed, that officer is given additional training.”

Body screeners at Invercargill Airport

Photo: New Zealand Aviation Security Service (AvSec)

Given New Zealand’s unique terrain and population of avid hunters, it’s not uncommon for airport security to detect and seize ammunition. However, if airport security believes it has been an attempt to smuggle onboard intentionally, the matter can be referred to the police.

Air New Zealand noted that the cabin crew followed standard procedure, and the carrier would not disclose how many passengers annually apply for an exemption to carry ammunition. Cabin crew and pilots are subject to the same screening processes as their passengers when passing through the airport, so it remains unlikely that it was placed there by the aircraft’s crew.



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