Flying with Ham Radio Gear.

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by KK6USY, Oct 14, 2021.

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  1. KK6USY

    KK6USY Ham Member QRZ Page

    I don't fly a lot but have flown about 10 times with Ham Radio gear and recently took a trip. I show what I took, how I packed it and share how it has gone with TSA and Ham Radio. This is just to help people know what to expect and it would be great for others to shares their experiences!

    KN6LCN, M0BPU, KI4ESK and 15 others like this.
  2. AD7SK

    AD7SK Ham Member QRZ Page

    Having some experience with threat detection and security screening into restricted government facilities, that included the public and various levels of screened personnel, I can say that the X-ray detectors vary at different facilities. Some are the simple 2-D X-ray scanners, some have color enhancement to show metals and other materials, and the latest are computerized tomography scanners that show the object in 3-D and can manipulate the image to show what it might be. Some scanners are capable of nitrate detection and the newest models include bio-sniffers that can detect COVID-19 [SARS Delta and variants]. Smiths Detection makes most of the TSA scanners and is the West's most predominate scanner manufacturer. However, not every facility can have the latest equipment and some of the stuff out there is 20+ years old. Operators at TSA and other facilities have varying levels of experience and there is a considerable employee turnover at TSA.

    Example - a woman's purse contains many items, but few of the objects in them are ferrous or non-ferrous metals. Most are low density objects such as brushes, tissues, cosmetics, sunglasses, etc. Metal items might be nail files, nail clippers, metal fittings for the purse, small scissors, etc. If a screener were to run your gear bag, they are going to see electronic circuitry, tubing, very dense Li-Ion/Li-PO/NiMH/NiCad battery packs some of which are nearly opaque, that ground spike [that alone would force a manual inspection in any setting that I am aware of [short of stowed in an unaccessible cargo hold], cabling, etc. That bag would be nearly impossible for an experienced operator to ascertain what is in it and mandate a closer visual/hand inspection.

    I would expect a significant number of TSA people to have little knowledge of amateur radio, the gear, or how it all fits together/how much gear is needed for various operational modes. Some may, but don't count on it.

    Based on what I've seen, experienced, and managed, I would suggest any travelling as you did to present themselves to a screener and tell them you have ham radio gear - showing them your license to verify. Another easy thing for everyone is to pack items based on hobby/task: photo gear gets its' own bag, ham gear gets a separate container, etc. Many screeners know what camera gear looks like and if someone sends a Nikkor 200-400mm zoom lens through - it will be scanned and passed through easily. Dual use gear like a photo tripod to mount some ham sticks would go with photo gear and that wouldn't raise an eyebrow. If you take your ICOM 705, your Elecrafters rig, or a bunch of gear, I would take two or more copies of my license [Official, please. It can make more of an impact] and keep one on my person and place another copy with each bag or container of gear. It can also help to take a 3"x 5" card and write "transceiver" on it, then place it with the transceiver. "Coax cable" card on the coax, "Antenna Tuner" on the tuner, etc. They may remove items and screen them individually, but it helps everyone.

    We often had the media, contractors, employees, government officials come through and all the cameras and power packs/tripods/ENG/every other possible piece of gear had to be screened and they did this for helping us and for their inventory control so that nothing got lost or misplaced. Every team knew what to expect, all items were screened as quickly as possible, and there were no surprises. We ran dozens of employee issued Motorola APX-6000s and 8000s through daily and never had an issue.

    Flying within a nation is easy. Flying outside of a home country can be a problem, depending on a destination location.
    KI7QBL, W7SJP, N3DAW and 12 others like this.
  3. K3FHP

    K3FHP XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    The land of the free....why I don't fly...
    NK0V, TIERONE, G0UUT and 13 others like this.
  4. K0UO

    K0UO Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I'm/ In the Air or On the Air daily.
    N0MJC, N3FAA, AJ6KZ and 1 other person like this.
  5. KV6O

    KV6O Ham Member QRZ Page

    People fly with electronics everyday. Laptops, cell phones, tablets, etc.. I have flown with ham gear many times, it's never been an issue. I don't know why people make such a big deal about it.
    G0UUT, W8LFA, K5MO and 8 others like this.
  6. KB2FCV

    KB2FCV Ham Member QRZ Page

    Nice informative video, well done! I've flown several times and brought some radio gear along but much less. I've brought an HT a few times or my KX-1 a few times.. once even internationally. I brought it on my carry-on luggage and not once have I ever been asked about it.
    W7SJP, HB9EPC, K3FHP and 1 other person like this.
  7. KK1J

    KK1J Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Good Review.
    I travel much, much lighter when flying. I operate qrp. Everything in one small protective case, not much larger than my KX2. My call sign is printed on the outside.
    Never had any issues going through security. Having said that, I am always ready to have my radio case opened for screening.
    I keep my operators license and a QSL card inside the case as well.
    I understand TSA has a job to do and I appreciate it very much. I will always try to make their job easy.
    KI7QBL, W7SJP, G4LHT and 3 others like this.
  8. M1WML

    M1WML Ham Member QRZ Page

  9. N9GO

    N9GO XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Just flew from Nashville to Fresno with a TMV71, Arrow antenna, LiFePo battery, charger, cables, and all. No problems with TSA whatsoever didn't even examine the bags.
    KI7QBL and M1WML like this.
  10. DO1FER

    DO1FER Ham Member QRZ Page

    Those equipment was always checked by the staff at the airport. I personally got problems in the past with a simple shortwavereceiver and a book with normal radio frequencys all around the world. The book only contained frequencys of commercial radio stations. When the staff of the border control dont understand the personal explanations, its away. That happend to me in Hongkong for about 20 years.
    M1WML likes this.

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