[CQ-Contest] Re: contest expedition crates [LONG]

Jeff Maass jmaass at columbus.rr.com
Sun Feb 1 11:58:02 EST 2004

I flew AA to/from Curacao in November/December with
much equipment (W3NQN filters, relays, headphones,
preamplifiers, pennant transformers, hardware, etc.)
in my suitcases, checked and carry-on. I had 44-feet
of fiberglass mast sections lashed together as
another piece of checked luggage. I had no
problem until my return trip through Miami.

We've established a recommendation among our PJ2T
ops that they have a complete inventory sheet for
each suitcase, stapled to a copy of their USA
license and CEPT information, and with a cover
letter to TSA explaining that the bag is filled
with the listed Amateur Radio equipment.

I don't know how much it speeds the pre-flight
inspections of the checked luggage by TSA, but at
least one of our guys has received notes from TSA
on their letters thanking him for making the job
easier. In the USA on the way down, all my luggage
was opened, including the carry-on.

They recommend that you not lock checked luggage,
and will gleefully break the locks if it *is*
locked. If you were to ship screwed-together crates,
I predict they are not going to spend much time
unscrewing before they crowbar the crate, especially
when their X-Ray equipment reveals wires and tubes
and solid blocks of transformers.

My main trouble was on the return flight, with my
carry-on. I had purchased a large block of cheese
as a gift and a couple of wedges of my favorite
cheese in Curacao just before departure, and had put
them in my carry-on. Also in there were my digital
camera, two sets of headphones (including the transmitter
for a Sony wireless headphones, batteries removed,
with the cord wound onto an FT-114 toroid), a pack of
AAA batteries (unopened), some T-shirts and towels, a
souvenir book, and a small flashlight (with batteries
in it). I didn't have an inventory list with me for
that bag.

In Miami, they ended up with two TSA peons and three
TSA supervisors poring over the X-ray of that bag for
35 minutes at the entry to the departure concourse,
while everyone in line behind me waited. They were
trying to decode what everyone saw. I told them
about everything except the camera (which I forgot was
in there, and which they recognized anyway). They
wouldn't just open the thing - they were afraid it was
going to explode upon opening.

They finally moved me aside, had me do the "remove shoes"
bit, and one of the TSA supervisors gingerly opened
my suitcase and carefully examinee everything inside,

What caused the problem?

  1) Cheese has the same density on their x-ray units
      as plastic explosives. My huge ball of Edam and
      wedges of aged Gouda were red-flags. I told them
      the cheese was there when they asked for the
      contents, but I guess they didn't believe me;

  2) The headphone transmitter with the cord wound on the
      toroid appeared to them to be a possible trigger,
      even though there were no batteries installed;

  3) There were batteries in the bag.

We carry odd stuff on airlines. Delays are inevitable.
Do whatever you can to make the TSA peons' job easier,
lest they make your life harder.

That day, I made my return flight to Cleveland, but I can't
say whether all the folks behind me in line made *their*


  Jeff Maass  K8ND

  Caribbean Contesting Consortium - PJ2T

> -----Original Message-----
> From: cq-contest-bounces at contesting.com
> [mailto:cq-contest-bounces at contesting.com]On Behalf Of
> KM9M-ZIG at comcast.net
> Sent: Sunday, February 01, 2004 12:23 AM
> Cc: cq-contest at contesting.com
> Subject: Re: [CQ-Contest] Re: contest expedition crates
> I flew A/A in Oct 2003 to Antigua.  The only problem I had at
> EVERY security check point from Chicago on was with my Bencher
> Paddles in my carry-on.  They brought much scrutiny.  So much on
> the return flight customs stop in San Juan, they were
> photographed, swapped and checked for explosives, plus I was
> given a very thorough search... shoes off, wand, etc. That was
> security.  The custom folks on V2 were real interested in the paddles too.
> Moral of the story: If at all possible, check the HAM gear!  And
> keep in the weight/dimensions/ # of pcs and you'll do just fine.
> I'm going back twice via this March.
> Good luck and 73,
> Zig KM9M (V26CW)
> > >  I can't get a real straight answer out of Customs, the TSA or the
> > airline.
> >
> > >What have been your experiences lately flying American Airlines to the
> > >Caribbean?
> >
> > Mark,
> >
> > As you know, TSA reserves the right to inspect any checked bag.  If it's
> > locked and they don't have a master key etc, they will break
> the lock and/or
> > bag.  It might be a bit much to ask TSA to carefully unpack
> your equipment.
> > Though they might call you in the back room if there are
> problems... even
> > before 9/11, I once got stopped when they couldnt figure out
> what all the
> > aluminum tubes were for.  Maybe they thought it was centrifuge
> materials?
> > Ha!
> >
> > As for bags, the 6Y and HC8 teams and many others use Pelican 1650 cases
> > when ever possible.  I have some background info on my
> DXholiday.com website
> > at:
> > http://www.dxholiday.com/dxresources.htm#equipmenttips
> >
> > AA is OK with bags, but most airlines have reduced the weight of the
> > allowable baggage.  For overweight and excess bags, you pay at
> lower weights
> > and more $$ than before.  If you are using 2 different airlines
> to get to
> > your destination, most airlines now have costsharing agreements
> where the
> > first airline will charge you excess weight for BOTH airlines.
>  Of course
> > they will both hit you up on your return.  If you use one
> airline for the
> > trip, you only get charged once, regardless of the number of
> legs to your
> > destination.
> >
> > Real-life TSA Experience:  On the inside lid of my suitcase, I
> always put a
> > copy of my license, and a note to the TSA letting them know I;ve got ham
> > radio equipment inside.  On the return trip from 6Y in Nov,
> here's what was
> > written on a TSA slip inside my bag:  "Dear Kenny, Thanks for
> the warning.
> > We are still going to go through your bag and mess everything
> up.  Signed,
> > A. Lead".
> >
> > Kenny K2KW
> >
> >

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