Unfortunately, because it was loaded, there is the potential for jail time. Here is the statute:
SUBTITLE VII--AVIATION PROGRAMS PART A--AIR COMMERCE AND SAFETY subpart iv--enforcement and penalties CHAPTER 465--SPECIAL AIRCRAFT JURISDICTION OF THE UNITED STATES Sec. 46505. Carrying a weapon or explosive on an aircraft (a) Definition. In this section, "loaded firearm'' means a starter gun or a weapon designed or converted to expel a projectile through an explosive, that has a cartridge, a detonator, or powder in the chamber, magazine, cylinder, or clip. (b) General Criminal Penalty. An individual shall be fined under title 18, imprisoned for not more than 10 years, or both, if the individual-- (1) when on, or attempting to get on, an aircraft in, or intended for operation in, air transportation or intrastate air transportation, has on or about the individual or the property of the individual a concealed dangerous weapon that is or would be accessible to the individual in flight; (2) has placed, attempted to place, or attempted to have placed a loaded firearm on that aircraft in property not accessible to passengers in flight; or (3) has on or about the individual, or has placed, attempted to place, or attempted to have placed on that aircraft, an explosive or incendiary device. (c) Criminal Penalty Involving Disregard for Human Life. An individual who willfully and without regard for the safety of human life, or with reckless disregard for the safety of human life, violates subsection (b) of this section, shall be fined under title 18, imprisoned for not more than 15 years, or both. (d) Nonapplication. Subsection (b)(1) of this section does not apply to-- (1) a law enforcement officer of a State or political subdivision of a State, or an officer or employee of the United States Government, authorized to carry arms in an official capacity; (2) another individual the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration by regulation authorizes to carry a dangerous weapon in air transportation or intrastate air transportation; or (3) an individual transporting a weapon (except a loaded firearm) in baggage not accessible to a passenger in flight if the air carrier was informed of the presence of the weapon. (Pub. L. 103-272, Sec. 1(e), July 5, 1994, 108 Stat. 1244; Pub. L. 104-132, title VII, Sec. 705(b), Apr. 24, 1996, 110 Stat. 1295.)
Since you did not willfully do anything and the violation was a result of a mistake, you are likely only looking at a fine. However, they may try to also put you on probation, although I doubt it. The fine can be up to $10,000.00. Here's that statute:
TITLE 49--TRANSPORTATION SUBTITLE VII--AVIATION PROGRAMS PART A--AIR COMMERCE AND SAFETY subpart iv--enforcement and penalties CHAPTER 463--PENALTIES Sec. 46303. Carrying a weapon
(a) Civil Penalty. An individual who, when on, or attempting to board, an aircraft in, or intended for operation in, air transportation or intrastate air transportation, has on or about the individual or the property of the individual a concealed dangerous weapon that is or would be accessible to the individual in flight is liable to the United States Government for a civil penalty of not more than $10,000 for each violation.
(b) Compromise and Setoff. (1) The Secretary of Transportation may compromise the amount of a civil penalty imposed under subsection (a) of this section. (2) The Government may deduct the amount of a civil penalty imposed or compromised under this section from amounts it owes the individual liable for the penalty.
Because the penalty can be so high, I think it would wise to get an attorney to help you enter a plea bargain and get an agreement to reduce it to something reasonable. However, you can try it on your own. I don't think they are going to jail you because there just simply isn't any intent involved in your case. But to avoid the potential for probation and reducing the penalty, you might want to make the investment of hiring a criminal defense attorney to represent you. -ZDN