Four Maltese shooters were escorted off a KM Malta Airlines flight on Sunday after the pilot refused to carry their airguns, despite them having the necessary paperwork.

The members of Malta Allied Airgunners Club (MAAC) were on board the plane to travel home at 8.30pm after taking part in a competition in Belgium when their problems began. 

“Over the years, we have travelled with AirMalta (former national airline) for different shooting competitions, and this is the first time we ever had issues,” Natal Falzon, one of the shooters, told Times of Malta. 

“This happened because the pilot refused to have weapons on his plane, despite us having all the paperwork and permits in order. He said ‘his plane, his call, no guns’.”

The shooters had faced no problems when they flew from Malta to Brussels for the Mamba Target Open in Grupont.

An airgun fires pellets using compressed air and does not operate with gunpowder. Falzon explained how before every flight, the group decompressed the pressure of the gun before packing it and the pellets in their suitcase to be placed in the hold luggage.  

They had taken their seats on the flight when the commotion began.

“We had all the paperwork on our end, yet once the pilot found out weapons were going to be placed on the plane, he decided he did not want our weapons on his plane,” he explained. 

The ground crew and airport security were also roped into the incident after the pilot requested a specific document from the Brussels Airport to show such weapons were allowed on the plane. Falzon said the security and ground crew staff said they did not know of such a document.

Despite this, the pilot insisted that no weapons were to board the plane. 

“We told him that we had everything in order, we had all the police permits, all the forms necessary and followed the necessary procedures to take our airguns on the plane,” he said, yet the pilot did not want the weapons on the plane. 

Natal Falzon during the Mamba Target competition earlier last week. Photo: Natal FalzonNatal Falzon during the Mamba Target competition earlier last week. Photo: Natal Falzon

Falzon said the Malta Allied Airgunners Club has travelled numerous times with the national airline to compete in competitions abroad in countries like Bulgaria and the UK.

"The pilot told us to get off the plane, but we said we were not planning to do so, we had paid and booked everything six months in advance," he said.

By then security and police staff arrived on the plane, and Falzon said the pilot reported him and his colleagues to the police.

By the end, the group got off the plane as they could not leave their airguns unattended. 

"When we got off the plane, everyone was very helpful to us, the ground crew, the consultant, who was on the phone with us for over 30 minutes trying to solve the situation," he said.

He said KM Malta Airlines also reached out to the group, covering their expenses for a flight back to Malta on Monday evening. 

"Everyone went out of their way to help us, the situation was created by one man, who was anti-gun and decided he did not want weapons on his plane," he said. 

In a one-line response, KM Malta Airlines said: "All was sorted out with the passengers early this morning."

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