PHILADELPHIA --Police say an airport janitor has been arrested Saturday in connection with the theft of a pilot's gun at the Philadelphia International Airport.
The janitor, who has not been identified, is facing several charges including theft, receiving stolen property and other offenses.
Police say it was a matter of minutes from the time the pilot left the public restroom in the secure section of Terminal B until he realized he forgot his bag. But it was too late. The bag - with his gun inside - was gone.
"Immediately the pilot flagged down the nearest airport police officer, and reported that the firearm was missing," said Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Joseph Sullivan.
Police say the Republic Airways pilot was authorized to carry the gun as part of the Federal Flight Deck Officer Program.
The gun somehow turned up, about two hours later, inside a trash bag inside the janitor's supply closet next to the restroom.
Police say the janitor was the only person in the restroom while the pilot's bag, with the gun inside, was unattended.
The janitor was captured on surveillance video entering the restroom, police say.
Sixteen flights were delayed for about an hour while planes were searched.
"Decisions were made, based on the safety of the flying public, to delay flights to make sure no flights took off with a dangerous item on board," said Sullivan.
A law enforcement officer and traveler we spoke with were relieved to hear the gun was in a locked, FAA-approved container.
"As a whole, you know, they need to tighten up the program," said Eric Young of Ohio. "I'm sure there are some standards they have in that program that weren't met. Maybe they need to review the whole program."
Investigators say no one was ever in any danger during the search, but passengers we spoke with were surprised to hear that a pilot would leave a bag unattended.
"You would think somebody that's a pilot that is in the airport and flies all the time would have a higher awareness to make sure those kinds of things don't happen," said Steve Macasa of Montgomeryville.
Some say it was an honest mistake by the pilot, but others say they found the search for the weapon unsettling.
"There definitely should be some reprimanding or there should be some reinforcement of the policies," said Tonya Wilson of Atlanta, Georgia. "Because, again, anyone could have picked it up."