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Take a metal detector on an airliner?
April 13, 2006 5:42 AM   Subscribe

Can a US airline passenger take a metal detector along on an airline flight? [m/i]

So I work with a guy who likes to look for old coins and stuff with a metal detector. He's getting ready to fly down to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and wants to take his metal detector along so he can scout around on the beach to see if there's anything interesting.

He tells me he can't get a straight answer from the travel agency, the airline, or the TSA about whether it's OK to take his metal detector, and if so, whether it has to be checked baggage. When he tried TSA, he got generic non-information. The airline referred him to TSA for anything not covered in the standard document, which doesn't mention such items at all.

Anybody know anything definitive?
posted by pax digita to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total)
 
One thought, unless it'll fit in the overhead compartment, I doubt it'll be possible to take it online. I'm unfamiliar with metal detectors, if and how they might fold up. Otherwise, if it can fit in the provided spaces, I would expect it to be doable. He just might get a few questions, maybe even be asked to demonstrate how it works.
posted by Atreides at 5:46 AM on April 13, 2006


Carry on luggage restrictions are more about size than anything (except for obviously dangerous items). A metal detector could never be qualified as dangerous. He might want to keep a battery in just to prove what it is to TSA. American says carry-ons must be less than 45-inches in height, so that should qualify. Ideally he should just check it. Most detectors have good solid cases that should be able to handle abuse.
posted by JJ86 at 5:57 AM on April 13, 2006


I'm the friend pax digita posted this for. My wife and I were hoping to do a long weekend with no checked bags, just carry-on. I don't have a rigid case for the detector, but it disassembles into three sections all (I believe) under 17 inches. I just don't want to get hung up at security and miss a flight because of the thing.
posted by Helios_VI at 6:21 AM on April 13, 2006


I know this doesn't answer the question, but I would recommend you just check it in luggage. It means you don't have to worry on the way down or back, and you don't ruin your trip over a hassle at the airport in which you're forced to leave it behind. Wait the half-hour for your bags at the other end.
posted by Dasein at 6:50 AM on April 13, 2006


Helios_VI - you should still have some sort of carrying case for it, whether it is hard or soft shelled.
posted by JJ86 at 6:58 AM on April 13, 2006


Another point, get to the airport early. Nothing eases the stress of flying by allowing plenty of leeway time for the unexpected. Even if they ask you to stop and demonstrate that it works, etc, you won't have to worry about missing that flight.
posted by Atreides at 7:00 AM on April 13, 2006


If you carry it on, expect to be stopped to demonstrate it's operation. I'd still have it in a carrying case, but you can probably get a briefcase-sized one that you can slip under the seat in front of you.

If you check it, don't expect it to be there when you open your bags at your destination. The TSA employs some of the skeeviest people I ever met as checked baggage inspectors, and they regularly steal electronics out of people's bags. Never check anything you want to be there when you get off the plane unless it's insured.
posted by SpecialK at 7:10 AM on April 13, 2006


what about packing the metal detector into a self-addressed and stamped box that fits all the height/weight requirements for carry on luggage? leave the box open in order to demonstrate it's operation. if they say it's not allowed to be carried on OR checked, you can have them mail it home.

//this doesn't really answer your question, but could possibly save you some angst and a missed flight.
posted by jessica at 7:31 AM on April 13, 2006


If you actually do miss your flight because the TSA is being stupid then please write up a blog about the incident so we can alert the media about yet another the TSA-is-being-stupid incident.

Any TSA agent who thinks a metal detector could be a dangerous weapon is just being stupid and probably has a power complex that requires him/her to assert their authortity in inappropriate ways.
posted by camworld at 8:23 AM on April 13, 2006


Any TSA agent who thinks a metal detector could be a dangerous weapon is just being stupid

I don't believe they're "being stupid" -- they're just doing a job. Nor do I believe they're thinking -- like so many low-pay jobs, management has gone to great lengths to reduce the amount of brain-work involved in the task. TSA's mission is to keep the flying experience safe by confiscating items deemed dangerous. These items include all the obvious things, plus tools. So when they ask what it is, your metal detector, don't explain that "it's a tool" or you might lose it, like happened that time with my 4-way nut driver at BWI.

...and probably has a power complex that requires him/her to assert their authortity in inappropriate ways.

No doubt that, just like any police department, TSA attracts sadistic fuckers who desire a position of petty authority with opportunities to harass and humiliate people.
posted by Rash at 9:29 AM on April 13, 2006


Rash mentioned: I don't believe they're "being stupid" -- they're just doing a job. Nor do I believe they're thinking -- like so many low-pay jobs, management has gone to great lengths to reduce the amount of brain-work involved in the task.

Well, you see they do have to think. They have to make rational judgements because not everything is cut and dried and the rules don't cover every circumstance. Unfortunately there are many screeners with only a HS education and not much experience in critical thinking.

The TSA does have a comprehensive list of items which will not fly. The main list does not mention Metal Detectors specifically but they will probably need to make sure it is not concealing anything else. Even categorically, a metal detector does not have the potential danger associated with other items.
posted by JJ86 at 11:28 AM on April 13, 2006


NOt exactly the same, but when I traveled with my minelab (just the name would get the tsa excited) metal detector, I was worried about it getting stolen, so I removed the electronics and put it in my "electronics bag", a backpack that I use to carry my gps, cell, video camera, camera and all the assorted wires, cables and chargers. I was worried that they might think that the metal tubes could be a weapon so I put them in my checked suitcase. I've never had them check in my electronics bag.
I would suggest making it as compact as possible, without exposing the ends of the tubing (you could poke someone's eye out!).
posted by 445supermag at 12:23 PM on April 13, 2006


I ended up using the approach suggested by 445supermag, checking the pole assemblies and carrying the electronics. (We had enough stuff that the whole idea of not checking a bag proved impractical, even without the detector.)
posted by Helios_VI at 5:42 AM on April 19, 2006


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