View Full Version : The US Transport Security Administration (TSA) - aagh!



DaveB
25-09-05, 08:03 AM
After some trouble taking Kawalski's through TSA (American airport security) earlier this year I decided to clarify the situation before another trip this Christmas. The problem was that 1 of 5 TSA checkpoints felt that it would turn on in baggage and burst into flame.(The Kawalski's were at minimum charge and have switch locks). When told that I couldn't take the batteries out they were going to confiscate. I eventually found a small allan key and removed the bulb, which survived, and damaged an 'o' ring that didn't. As a result of the e-mail chain below I rang TSA this morning, was cut off twice, but was finally told that "Flashlights" are permitted, but that any individual TSA checker has the right to decide otherwise, and that it might be a good idea to FEDEX them to my destination! I will have my allan key at the ready - but what a farce.

E-mail chat (read from bottom):


Thank you for your e-mail message. So that we can better assist you we encourage you to call us at 1-866-289-9673. Due to the unexpected high volume of calls we are receiving, you may experience a lengthy wait time during peak hours (7am through 5pm), please try calling during off-peak hours.

If you are outside the United States and cannot use the toll-free number, please call us at 1-571-227-2900.

We encourage you to visit our website at www.tsa.gov for additional information about TSA. All travelers, and particularly those who travel infrequently, are encouraged to visit the section on travel tips before their trip. The website has information about prohibited and permitted items, the screening process and procedures, and guidance for special considerations, that may assist in preparing for air travel. You can go directly to these tips at www.TSATravelTips.us.


We hope this information is helpful.

TSA Contact Center




-----Original Message-----
From: David Bewick; SMTP:[email protected]
Sent: Saturday, September 24, 2005 07:16 AM
To: 'TSA-Contact Center'
CC:
Subject: RE: Carrying a Flashlight on flight

Could you please read the e-mail I sent that you have just replied to.
Being told to check your web site and the prohibited items list when I have done so and not found an answer is unhelpful.

Thank you

David Bewick

-----Original Message-----
From: TSA-Contact Center [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: 24 September 2005 12:09
To: [email protected]
Subject: Re: Carrying a Flashlight on flight

Thank you for your message offering comments and concerns about the prohibition of specific objects from passenger aircraft and the disposition of items left at security screening positions.

We are committed to both excellent security and customer service. TSA has published guidelines to help passengers through airport security. The guidelines include a list of permitted items as well as an expanded list of items prohibited from aircraft cabins. The prohibited and permitted items chart is not intended to be all-inclusive and is updated as necessary. To ensure everyone's security, the screener may determine that an item not on this chart is prohibited. TSA reviews these lists periodically and changes are announced and posted as necessary.

We encourage you to visit our website at http://www.tsa.dot.gov for additional information about TSA. All travelers, and particularly those who travel infrequently, are encouraged to visit the section on travel tips before their trip. However, we also encourage frequent flyers to review the guidelines periodically. The website has information about prohibited and permitted items, the screening process and procedures, and guidance for special considerations, that may assist in preparing for air travel. You can go directly to these tips at http://www.TSATravelTips.us.

If a prohibited item is discovered at the checkpoint, you will be given the opportunity to either remove the item from the checkpoint or put it in the TSA disposal bin. Removing the item from the checkpoint includes, but is not limited to:

. leaving it with a friend
. placing the item in your checked baggage
. mailing it to yourself
. returning it to your car

There are no provisions for returning banned items when you choose to leave them at the security checkpoint.

We work very hard to establish consistency in the screening process. As we inspect security screening operations at airports and receive feedback from the traveling public, we address inconsistencies and ensure corrective actions are taken, when necessary.

Please accept our appreciation for taking the time to share your thoughts and concerns with us. Your help and support are important contributions to ensuring the safety and security of the Nation's aviation system.

TSA Contact Center


-----Original Message-----
From: David Bewick; SMTP:[email protected]
Sent: Saturday, September 24, 2005 06:55 AM
To: TSA-ContactCenter
CC:
Subject: Carrying a Flashlight on flight

Dear Sir/Madam,

My wife and I will be travelling from the UK to Australia via the USA in December this year. This repeats aspects of a trip we made earlier this year which raised a question about the safe carriage of flashlights at 1 of the 3 US airports we travelled through at that time.

We will both be carrying scuba flashlights with inbuilt rechargeable batteries. These items are not on your prohibited list, but one TSA agent felt that they were a fire hazard and was unwilling to allow them on the flight. The situation was finally resolved by the removal of the halogen lamps from the flashlights, which requires tools and risks damage to 'o'
rings and the lamps, as this is not a recommended practice.

The flashlights will be discharged to minimum battery charge and are fitted with a switch lock that prevents accidental turning on. For more information I include a link to a web site describing these features.

http://www.lighthousediving.co.uk/whykow.htm

Could you please confirm that these items are permitted through TSA baggage checks.

Thank you for you help.

David Bewick

Rob Dobson
25-09-05, 08:43 AM
I have a Navy90 50W Halogen - an almost identical torch to the one I think you had this trouble with. I always carried it in hand luggage, discharged and 'locked' off.

Coming back from the Red Sea earlier in the year I made the mistake of not discharging the battery before travelling as the last night dive was cancelled and I forgot to drain it down before flying. Just before the fasten seat belt sign come on for take-off I decided to go into the over-head locker to get something out of my bag. There was smoke in the baggage bin and a bright glow from within my rucksack that had started to melt! If I hadn't gone to my back at that very moment I honestly don't know what would have happened - a fire onboard a plane during take-off doesn't bear thinking about.

Aware of the possibility of the torch switching on despite of the "lock" I kept my bag with me throughout the flight to make sure it didn't switch back on. Then walking through passport control I could smell burning again and sure enough my bag was once again melting.

From now on I will only *ever* transport a torch with either the bulb out or the battery disconnected. I simply don't trust locks anymore. It happens so quickly that I won't chance minimum charge anymore either.

When you think of all of the things that are now banned from planes (nail files/scissors etc) I am surprised that torches are still allowed at all. At the very least I would expect them to make us prove that the lamp is completely disabled.

Obviously you have done everything you can to check the rules out before you fly to avoid any trouble - but to no avail and I know how annoying that is. I just think that when the airlines wake up to just how dangerous these lights can be they will probably be banned anyway or at least subjected to much tighter scrutiny.

DaveB
25-09-05, 10:56 AM
That's an interesting and scary story. I'm not saying it couldn't happen to a Kawalski, but the switch lock is very good, and I have found that at minimum charge the lamp only lights for about 15 seconds, and very little heat can be felt. Did your switch break or was it knocked off somehow?
I do agree with you that asking us to prove the btteries are discharged would be a sound process.





I have a Navy90 50W Halogen - an almost identical torch to the one I think you had this trouble with. I always carried it in hand luggage, discharged and 'locked' off.

Coming back from the Red Sea earlier in the year I made the mistake of not discharging the battery before travelling as the last night dive was cancelled and I forgot to drain it down before flying. Just before the fasten seat belt sign come on for take-off I decided to go into the over-head locker to get something out of my bag. There was smoke in the baggage bin and a bright glow from within my rucksack that had started to melt! If I hadn't gone to my back at that very moment I honestly don't know what would have happened - a fire onboard a plane during take-off doesn't bear thinking about.

Aware of the possibility of the torch switching on despite of the "lock" I kept my bag with me throughout the flight to make sure it didn't switch back on. Then walking through passport control I could smell burning again and sure enough my bag was once again melting.

From now on I will only *ever* transport a torch with either the bulb out or the battery disconnected. I simply don't trust locks anymore. It happens so quickly that I won't chance minimum charge anymore either.

When you think of all of the things that are now banned from planes (nail files/scissors etc) I am surprised that torches are still allowed at all. At the very least I would expect them to make us prove that the lamp is completely disabled.

Obviously you have done everything you can to check the rules out before you fly to avoid any trouble - but to no avail and I know how annoying that is. I just think that when the airlines wake up to just how dangerous these lights can be they will probably be banned anyway or at least subjected to much tighter scrutiny.

Alun
27-09-05, 11:09 PM
Having said that, I've been through airport security and had to switch on my laptop and multimeter to prove that they worked as they appeared to. A (for us) normal diving torch looks "over engineered" and complicated to a non-diver. Imagine trying to explain why something so big and heavy with so much wire can't be switched on. Moreover, how many non-diving mates do you have who wince with pain when you tell them how much you paid for your "bargain" torch? These very people will be on security, not understanding why you are unwilling to leave a "cheap flashlight" at the security desk.

Rob Dobson
28-09-05, 08:34 AM
That's an interesting and scary story. I'm not saying it couldn't happen to a Kawalski, but the switch lock is very good

Up until this incident I had absolute faith in the lock on the Suunto. The lock did not break and seemed to be in full working order after both incidents.

I think my mistake was in how I placed the torch in the rucksack - i.e bulb pointing up - less chance of smashing the lens glass. The lock is on the power switch at the opposite end of the torch to the bulb - i.e at the very back. So if the torch is pointing up then the weight of the torch is pressing back against the lock. Add the movent/motion of walking, lifting a bag up to an overhead locker, other bags being placed in, moved around etc. It only takes on movement to imitate the switching-on action and the torch is active.

Rob Dobson
28-09-05, 08:42 AM
Having said that, I've been through airport security and had to switch on my laptop and multimeter to prove that they worked as they appeared to. A (for us) normal diving torch looks "over engineered" and complicated to a non-diver. Imagine trying to explain why something so big and heavy with so much wire can't be switched on. Moreover, how many non-diving mates do you have who wince with pain when you tell them how much you paid for your "bargain" torch? These very people will be on security, not understanding why you are unwilling to leave a "cheap flashlight" at the security desk.

HHmmmmm - good point. The only way I can see divers satisfying both the security requirement that it works with the safety requirement that it doesn't is to show security that it works and check-in that it doesn't. Unfortunately security and check-in are the wrong way round so we'd have to disable the torch at check-in (remove the bulb or disconnect the battery) and then walk through to security and reconnect it to show that it works.

That could work but the onus is back on the diver to remember to disconnect it again - sooner or a later a diver rushing through security to get the flight will forget.... That and the damage we'd all be doing to our lights by connecting/disconnecting several times everytime we get on a flight.

More realistically they'll just ban torches from flying and we'll have to hire pants ones at the other end :mad:

turbanator
28-09-05, 09:24 AM
That's an interesting and scary story. I'm not saying it couldn't happen to a Kawalski, but the switch lock is very good,
Smudger had it happen to his.
THe circumstances were different - he was charging his and had stood it on the lens.

It decided to turn itself on and burnt a hole in the carpet, cracked the lens and I don't know if it damaged the reflector.

It was apparently caused by 'crap in the switch', whi is odd as I believe that they are magnetic, unless there is a way for the magnet to become detached from the holder.

To add insult to injury, it was away on a trip and he was in rented accom., I can't remember if he lost any deposit.

r
Paul

42
28-09-05, 09:48 AM
Having read the final reply from the helpful people at the TSA, when exactly is there off-peak hours for their phone number, 7am-5pm seems alot like peak hours to me unless of course your on the phones at 6.55am and somebody is actually in the office at 7am.

lovely set of standard replys though. Please check the website which you've already pointed out didn't work.....

turbanator
28-09-05, 09:55 AM
Having read the final reply from the helpful people at the TSA, when exactly is there off-peak hours for their phone number, 7am-5pm seems alot like peak hours to me unless of course your on the phones at 6.55am and somebody is actually in the office at 7am.

lovely set of standard replys though. Please check the website which you've already pointed out didn't work.....Yes, it puts me in mind of the Comet 'help' line, and many others, "Your call is important to us and you're moving up the queue."
Well if it's that bloody important why not put more operators on or make it a freephone number so that I'm not paying to listen to your inane message.

Still getting back to the point, when we did a course in Florida, we shipped the kit, all of it apart from cyls and weights.
For two of us it was about 12 stone. It cost 100 quid each way, and we were able to store the kit with Bax Global for the week that were were not on the course, rather than hump it around in the car.

Is this an option?

Mark-B
28-09-05, 12:05 PM
Not diving related ,
But I had a run in with them couple of years ago, we changed planes at Miami en route to Mexico, when I got my bags at Mexico there was a cable tie holding the zip ends secure not put on by me, after it was cut of by the mexicans who wanted to check my case on the way in, this caused problems as I did not have a cutter as they are banned in carry on and the bod at the airport thought I was refusing a search etc, anyway when opened at the top was a big letter saying that the case was broken into by the TSA and as it was locked they were not responsible for the damage, all my clothes were dirty and other stuff damaged, looked like they just tipped it out on a hanger floor!!.

On returning to Miami I let em have with both barrels, they said all the national press carried info about the baggage regs etc, so very politely I pointed out to them that their national press is not read in the Uk by most people so where the F****ing hell did they think I was going to get the info from, esp as the Virgin twilight check-in security staff told me to lock our cases etc at Gatwick.

I also told them that their rules were generally a load of B******S as unlocked cases being moved between aircraft could give drug smuggling baggage handlers an easy transport method ie Jose 1 in Mex phones Jose 2 in Miami and says its in this case etc etc, and there is no proof of tampering, then when you go through the security checks their machine picks up the drug scent and you are in the crap, After a good old Brit ear bashing I bet they were glad I was on my way out and not in, esp as I told them that if they were not so big headed and did not stomp around the planet thinking they were gods gift and indestructible, then maybe just maybe they might be liked a little more by certain people.

My opinion of the TSA is exteremly low, just a bunch of f***** idiots who think they know what there doing, and dont give a fig about anyone or their possesions esp if you are not a US citizen and without a shred of common between them, I fail to see why they needed to break into my case as modern x-ray machines at airports are very good, and as I use the same ones at work for searching I know what they can do.

Cheers
Mark

Spike Jackson
28-09-05, 12:39 PM
Not diving related ,
But I had a run in with them couple of years ago, we changed planes at Miami en route to Mexico, when I got my bags at Mexico there was a cable tie holding the zip ends secure not put on by me, after it was cut of by the mexicans who wanted to check my case on the way in, this caused problems as I did not have a cutter as they are banned in carry on and the bod at the airport thought I was refusing a search etc, anyway when opened at the top was a big letter saying that the case was broken into by the TSA and as it was locked they were not responsible for the damage, all my clothes were dirty and other stuff damaged, looked like they just tipped it out on a hanger floor!!.

On returning to Miami I let em have with both barrels, they said all the national press carried info about the baggage regs etc, so very politely I pointed out to them that their national press is not read in the Uk by most people so where the F****ing hell did they think I was going to get the info from, esp as the Virgin twilight check-in security staff told me to lock our cases etc at Gatwick.

I also told them that their rules were generally a load of B******S as unlocked cases being moved between aircraft could give drug smuggling baggage handlers an easy transport method ie Jose 1 in Mex phones Jose 2 in Miami and says its in this case etc etc, and there is no proof of tampering, then when you go through the security checks their machine picks up the drug scent and you are in the crap, After a good old Brit ear bashing I bet they were glad I was on my way out and not in, esp as I told them that if they were not so big headed and did not stomp around the planet thinking they were gods gift and indestructible, then maybe just maybe they might be liked a little more by certain people.

My opinion of the TSA is exteremly low, just a bunch of f***** idiots who think they know what there doing, and dont give a fig about anyone or their possesions esp if you are not a US citizen and without a shred of common between them, I fail to see why they needed to break into my case as modern x-ray machines at airports are very good, and as I use the same ones at work for searching I know what they can do.

Cheers
Mark


Couldn't agree more. Also read Monty Hall's report in this month's Diver. We had a ghastly time with the same bunch of pricks on our trip to Truk this year. Arrogant, aggressive, hostile, pushy, ignorant,rude, stupid, pigheaded tossers. Doesn't even begin to describe them. Completely put us off ever travelling to the US. I would only go through it again in extreme circumstances ie another trip to Truk!