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Author Topic: TSA, customs, airline travel with amateur radio gear- Any words of wisdom?  (Read 5196 times)
AD0AR
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Posts: 24




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« on: April 11, 2014, 07:18:22 PM »

Hello all! This question is for all of those amateurs who have traveled internationally abroad by airplane and crossed country borders by car- do you have any words of wisdom to relay to others about traveling with your gear, dealing with customs/border agents and the TSA?
   I have relatives all over Europe and I'd like to bring my IC-7K with me when I vacation, but I'd rather avoid getting sacked/my stuff seized by the TSA or customs for having a fistful of wires, radio and antennas in my luggage.
 I am also aware of the bureaucratic side of operating in a foreign country.  I can take care of most of that as I have my relatives helping me out at that level.
  Although I have a universal power supply to power my radio set, my portable setup contains a 35AH AGM lead acid "DRY" battery intergrated into the carrying case.  I wonder if these are considered "SAFE" for aboard aircraft and what documentation is needed to PROVE that they are "SAFE/ type accepted" for international air travel so I don't need to suffer any unwanted travel delays.
 The countries I travel through are Germany, Poland, Serbia, Croatia, Italy, Netherlands, and Bosnia. For all those that have suffered delays from overly suspicious agents, you know what I mean with those delays..... They can be expensive!
Thanks in advance!! ADØAR
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K6LCS
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« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2014, 10:33:49 PM »

>> ... my portable setup contains a 35AH AGM lead acid "DRY" battery intergrated into the carrying case ...

That is just asking for trouble. I would scale the whole package WAY down. Do NOT use terminal time to try to "educate" ANY official. You will not win any argument. And you MIGHT end up leaving equipment behind.

This is a case where you need to make the calls yourself, and find out what hurdles you'll be crossing.

SO ... Turn that TX power down to 2-5W on ALL bands. Write your friends with whom you'll be visiting to have a 12VDC battery charged and ready to play with at each stop, and just take a longwire with you. Show 'em how finesse and patience can work the planet with 5W.

Clint Bradford K6LCS
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Clint Bradford, K6LCS
http://www.work-sat.com
G4AON
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« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2014, 10:47:37 PM »

I regularly take a K2 and K1 on aircraft in the UK, Spain and Portugal.

Electronic items are required to be carried in hand luggage, see the airline terms and conditions.

Even though there isn't a spillage issue with a gel cell, the word "acid" on the battery will have airport security screeners getting twitchy. I have heard of gel cells being confiscated. A safer bet is either a NiMh pack or a small switched mode PSU.

I carry wire antennas in the hold luggage and the transceiver in hand luggage and usually have to pass the transceiver separately through X-Ray screening, but haven't had any other issues.

Internal flights in Europe are starting to have problems with passengers carrying those wheeled bags, there isn't enough overhead locker space if everyone takes a large bag on board. Ryanair will only take the first 90 bags on board, later arrivals have to put theirs in the hold, which is not a good idea for your valuable transceiver.

Don't forget to carry your licence with you.

I am writing this from my YL's parents QTH in Spain, listening to my K2 on a bedside table. The antenna is a ground plane on the roof made from wire and a 23' fishing pole.

73 Dave, EA5/G4AON
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AD0AR
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« Reply #3 on: April 12, 2014, 12:13:30 AM »

I have used NiMh cells before on another project and TSA flipped when they showed up on an X-ray.  Apparently cells side-by-side look too much like explosives.
Anyway my AGM battery is easily removable from the case. 
  I have everything in a wheeled Pelican 1510 carry on size case with an integrated laptop dedicated for digi modes.  The 40 amp switcher PSU I have in the box is worldwide compatible and wired for noise suppression and powers everything including the laptop.  I suppose if I leave the battery out, I may be able to squeeze an AH-4 tuner in the box in it's place. For a portable antenna, I use a quantity of (5) MFJ-1979 16.5 FT long telescoping whip antennas.  Four are used to make a nice four way ground plane and the fifth I mount vertical.  I like the idea that everything is self supporting with a small folding tripod. 
  With the AH-4 tuner, those MFJ-1979's will match from 3.5 Mhz to 54 Mhz.  I'm rather impressed with their performance, but I usually only run digi modes anyway and one does not need much power to get some good distance.
  The setup has worked well with low angle of radiation, but I am still working on a creative mount that hinges the ground plane section of the antennas and folds up neatly that will make efficient use of compact space for ease of travel and deployment as my present setup is an embarrassment that looks more like a Rube Goldberg machine.
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M6GOM
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« Reply #4 on: April 12, 2014, 06:22:43 AM »

TSA don't operate in Europe so your only issue will be when returning to the USA.

I've regularly flown with an Icom 7000, switch mode PSU, antenna tuner and rolls of cable for an antenna in carry on. It just gets shoved through the X-Ray machine and handed back to me. Never been asked to open it.

I'd maybe forget the battery on the flight. You should be able to get a relative to purchase one over here quite cheap.

In regards to the car its pretty much a none issue. I drive through several EU countries with a dualbander and a Little Tarheel II with a 72" whip on and have never been stopped.
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N6PG
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« Reply #5 on: April 12, 2014, 08:33:07 AM »

The A123 batteries from Buddipole are pricy, but great! And they have a label that says TSA approved. That's helped me before.
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F8WBD
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« Reply #6 on: April 14, 2014, 05:04:08 AM »

Read K6LCS and follow!

Best bet, a used FT-817 (no batteries of any kind) in overhead airplane storage.  Pelican case recommended. Key or keyer and mini tuner, Par EF-20 antenna. All in the case. Cheap, small, low-amp power supply kept at the most visited country. Then, travel through Euro with it. You will probably be traveling car, bus, train. Keep the PS there, will probably be 220V and no use in the USA.

Remember, you are visiting friends and family. They will not be particularly impressed with your radio activity. This is 2014, not 1946. Technology has been in Europe for a long time now. Amateur radio shacks rival and often surpass those in the USA. Europe is not rare DX. You will probably not cause pile-ups, stateside.

Enjoy and learn from this adventure.
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KB2FCV
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« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2014, 10:35:57 AM »

I would bring whatever radio equipment on carry-on luggage to avoid theft. That large battery may raise some red flags with TSA as mentioned they might not let it on the plane. They always verify and want to see my wife's wheelchair batteries to know they are safe for travel.

The last two times I went overseas I just brought a hand held for 2m. I didn't have the KX-1 at that time. The last time I flew on a plane I brought the KX-1 along. In both cases these radios all use AA Alkalines.. so I could "re-charge" at any convenience store by simply buying more batteries if needed. I never did have to buy them on the trips (I didn't do a whole lot of operating).
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AD7DB
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« Reply #8 on: July 09, 2014, 10:23:22 AM »

I will be flying from California to Connecticut next week (on Southwest Airlines) for the ARRL convention. I plan to take my IC-7000 in carry-on. I will have it wrapped up in a T-shirt in the suitcase so I can easily show it to them if needed. I will have the microphone in a clear plastic bag. I'll also have my Yaesu HT and an Android tablet.

There have been news stories lately that TSA might want to see any electronic item powered up for their inspection, particularly for foreign flights coming into the USA (which is not the case here). The IC-7000 can't power up. It requires a power supply, and the power cords and other accessories are going to be in checked baggage. (I'm not taking any battery.) I'm carrying my ham license with me. I don't intend to use any of this equipment during the flight. I hope they'll understand this. The last thing I want to do is abandon the radio on their whim just because they're uninformed.

One suggestion I read was, be right up front with them, tell them what you have before they have to ask about it and inspect it. Others say I have absolutely nothing to worry about... (yeah right, it isn't their radio).

Thanks for all comments.
Dave AD7DB
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KD0SFY
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Posts: 298




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« Reply #9 on: July 09, 2014, 03:05:07 PM »

Hello all! This question is for all of those amateurs who have traveled internationally abroad by airplane and crossed country borders by car- do you have any words of wisdom to relay to others about traveling with your gear, dealing with customs/border agents and the TSA?
   I have relatives all over Europe and I'd like to bring my IC-7K with me when I vacation, but I'd rather avoid getting sacked/my stuff seized by the TSA or customs for having a fistful of wires, radio and antennas in my luggage.
 I am also aware of the bureaucratic side of operating in a foreign country.  I can take care of most of that as I have my relatives helping me out at that level.
  Although I have a universal power supply to power my radio set, my portable setup contains a 35AH AGM lead acid "DRY" battery intergrated into the carrying case.  I wonder if these are considered "SAFE" for aboard aircraft and what documentation is needed to PROVE that they are "SAFE/ type accepted" for international air travel so I don't need to suffer any unwanted travel delays.
 The countries I travel through are Germany, Poland, Serbia, Croatia, Italy, Netherlands, and Bosnia. For all those that have suffered delays from overly suspicious agents, you know what I mean with those delays..... They can be expensive!
Thanks in advance!! ADØAR
PO2 USN Veteran


Find a nearby customs office and ask them about forms declaring items that you are legally taking out of the country and will be bringing back with you.  On this, you will list all your electronics items by make, model, serial number, and description.  This makes it easier for you to retain your equipment when crossing borders.  Also have pictures of the equipment and videos of it operating as proof of condition. 
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KD0SFY
Member

Posts: 298




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« Reply #10 on: July 09, 2014, 03:07:26 PM »

I will be flying from California to Connecticut next week (on Southwest Airlines) for the ARRL convention. I plan to take my IC-7000 in carry-on. I will have it wrapped up in a T-shirt in the suitcase so I can easily show it to them if needed. I will have the microphone in a clear plastic bag. I'll also have my Yaesu HT and an Android tablet.

There have been news stories lately that TSA might want to see any electronic item powered up for their inspection, particularly for foreign flights coming into the USA (which is not the case here). The IC-7000 can't power up. It requires a power supply, and the power cords and other accessories are going to be in checked baggage. (I'm not taking any battery.) I'm carrying my ham license with me. I don't intend to use any of this equipment during the flight. I hope they'll understand this. The last thing I want to do is abandon the radio on their whim just because they're uninformed.

One suggestion I read was, be right up front with them, tell them what you have before they have to ask about it and inspect it. Others say I have absolutely nothing to worry about... (yeah right, it isn't their radio).

Thanks for all comments.
Dave AD7DB


The new powering up requirement is for flights to the US originating overseas from certain airports.  
« Last Edit: July 09, 2014, 03:15:38 PM by KD0SFY » Logged
G3RZP
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« Reply #11 on: July 10, 2014, 02:39:38 AM »

It now applies in the UK for flights to more (undisclosed because of security!) destinations than just the US. Electronics that can't be powered up will not be allowed.

I suspect they haven't thought through some possible problems with medical devices....
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KD0SFY
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Posts: 298




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« Reply #12 on: July 10, 2014, 08:28:48 AM »

It now applies in the UK for flights to more (undisclosed because of security!) destinations than just the US. Electronics that can't be powered up will not be allowed.

I suspect they haven't thought through some possible problems with medical devices....

The TSA requirements only apply to flights to the US.  The British Airways statement explains it quite well. 

Medical devices are not a problem.   
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G3RZP
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« Reply #13 on: July 10, 2014, 09:36:35 AM »

Bear in mind they changed the UK rules yesterday....
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KD0SFY
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« Reply #14 on: July 10, 2014, 12:20:23 PM »

British Airways statement remains the same.  They changed the rules three days ago. 
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