OK, all serious this time.
After getting a busy hang-up several times earlier, at 3:30PM today, I
finally got passed further through the ARU system at TSA. The message said
there were 29 others ahead of me, and that the wait time would be
approximately 9 minutes.
At 3:59PM I connected with a friendly, helpful guy named "Ed" (via the TSA
Customer Service # on the www.tsa.gov website).
For starters, I said I was sure TSA was pretty overwhelmed right now, but
asked why I kept getting extra copies of the initial Auto-Response to my
one email last week? He said that's just what they do. My suggestion was,
on subsequent emails, don't leave us hanging in wait wondering if we are
stuck in some kind of email loop due to system dysfunctonalities at
TSA. Any subsequent emails should have different wording to eliminate any
confusion or questions. That's the way I would do things if I were in charge.
After discussing some various personal carry-on item concerns, we talked
about Amateur Radio Equipment. I took the liberty to share a couple of the
recent horror stories (not to worry, I did NOT mention callsigns or names),
with a request to go up via his Supervisor that a bulletin go out to all
screeners to STOP TRASHING HAM RADIO EQUIPMENT (I used a kinder, gentler
phraseology with Ed).
We continued on, and he seemed to think the idea of including equipment
item brochures & more details inside the bags or cases was good for both
carry-on and checked baggage. He made the suggestion that I perhaps get to
the airport 3 or more hours early, and seek out the TSA "Supervisor" and
ask for a "Private Screening" (where I could possibly assist in taking
anything apart of concern, and answering any questions). This sounded like
a good idea, since the separate black "bodies" for both my TS-480S rigs
with two short pieces of coax coming out might be misconstrued as being
some type of you-know-what.
Thank God I didn't leave it at that, and asked for the TSA phone numbers at
each of the 3 airports involved (if I actually make the trip now). One was
San Jose, CA..about 35 miles away.
Surprise, Surprise. The representative at SJ said "Private Screenings" are
ONLY for carry-on bags, and that all "checked-baggage" with screening
concerns is dealt with in a "Secure Area" behind the building...and that NO
passengers are allowed to be there. So much for that plan. I am 100%
certain that all of my checked baggage is going to be yanked off when the
screeners see it on-screen...too many "unusual devices of various shapes".
I expressed my concerns about damaged or stolen items, and her
recommendation was either "carry it on board", or "ship the stuff ahead of
time". One of my local ham pals said the same thing today. It was my firm
impression that if TSA wants to dismantle any radio gear, they are going to
do it. Of course, what is the likelihood they can put all the pieces back
together...in the correct order? IMHO, it's Nil. I described the HS-1800
High Sierra base used in the Farallon Special, as I can just visualize TSA
screeners "wondering" what is inside that long cylindrical METAL tube with
the wire coil showing on the top, and the (12v) wire leads coming out the
bottom. I would definitely need to include a pix and details from the HS
website, but no guarantees that they wouldn't have it in pieces by the time
all is said and done. Once again, she said to carry it on, or ship it
ahead of time ;-(
The TSA rep at SJ said if there were any suspicions with checked baggage,
they would contact the airlines & I (or anyone) would be tracked down and
possibly taken into custody by authorities until things got sorted
out. Not a really fun thought, but a reality of where we are in airline
travel life these days.
Sadly, I heard on the news tonight that a plane from London to WDC was
re-routed to Boston because some whack-o lady had managed to get 4 lighters
and a jar of something past TWO SEPARATE SCREENINGS. This does not give me
much confidence about flying right now.
FYI & 73...
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