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Work issues make it likely that I will be flying to Phoenix this year. It's been 15 years since I've tried to take a model on a plane. Can anyone give me advice on the current climate and what can be done to get an entry past TSA without damage. Success stories and/or failures would be appreciated.

 

Rick Jackson

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I stopped trying to do that years ago. Even if you put the model in a clear case, the idiots want to open it, pick it up, and handle it. And God forbid if you act like they shouldn't because THAT is a real alarm to them. Add to that if your model is multi-media and contains metal parts that set off the detectors, or "show up" on the screen as something they cannot readily identify (like my belt buckle in my bag last trip!) and you're going to be delayed and examined, and very lucky if they don't break the model looking at it. You have to HOPE you get a TSA agent with a modicum of understanding and/or common sense, and what are the chances THAT will happen?

 

Then there's the problem of the actual flight. If you try to have it sent along with baggage it'll be tossed and banged around. Even if you get it on the plane in one piece, a hard landing may damage it, and that doesn't account for its being kicked while under the seat or banged in the overhead compartment while people stow their bags. And don't forget, you have to do all of this TWICE in order to get a model there and back intact.

 

I know I sound like it's all doom and gloom. I know there are guys who DO regularly fly with models to shows. It's not that it can't be done. It's that it adds a LOT of stress and real possible problems with getting on and connecting to flights on time. By the way, EVERY example I cited above is either first hand, or at most second hand experiences!

 

I save taking models to the Nats for the ones I can drive to!

 

GIL :smiley16:

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Hi Rick:

 

Depends and by that I mean what kind of model. I build figures and keep them small for flying so I pack them in an openable plastic tub and carry on. Never had an issue. I would trying to carry a rigged biplane would be a nightmare. Small scale armor might be easy too.

 

Dave

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I carry my entries in what was called in the day a Train Case. It's a small suitcase with a handle on the top. It fits nicely under the seat. Got it at a flea market or garage sale. I've also jerry rigged boxes to do the same task when I needed a skosh more room with a make-shift handle. I make sure my entries are secure inside and put it in a tub to go through the xray machine as those lead flaps at the openings can turn a light article like this topsy-turvy with disastrous results to the contents. If your item has ANY metal in or on it, it may catch their eye and you'll have to open it up. Whatever you use, ensure that it can be opened and closed easily and the model seen without obstruction, just in case. Only problem I ever had was when I learned the lesson about the lead flaps and when I once took a white metal kit, which caused the xray thingy to blink. That case never leaves my side.

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Well, this is not all that difficult. Rule #1 pack all your tools, glues and paints in your checked bag. None of that stuff will make it through carry on. Sharp object and flammables are a huge no no! Rule #2 when you pack up your models think about having to open them up and show them. Don't wrap them in anything as you will have to unwrap them. A good choice is a camera case with "pick and pluck" foam. Here is Pelican cases web site as and expample of the ganera of case that is easy to pack models in. These are not cheap cases, but there are similar cases that are less expensive. http://www.pelican.com/us/en/product/watertight-protector-hard-cases/medium-case/air-case/1525/ This is a web site for Pick and Pluck foam again just for example. You can get it cheaper other places. https://www.uline.com/Product/Detail/S-13719/Foam/Pick-and-Pack-Foam-Sheets-24-x-24-x-2?pricode=WB0753&gadtype=pla&id=S-13719&gclid=CjwKCAiA15vTBRAHEiwA7Snfc4z3OylMh81Gq1-5x_tjT0IxjW4LoWLbLnxxz83io2MhQrLf5qkOyxoCR9UQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

 

Packing in this manner will let the TSA person know that you are a "frequent traveler" so they will respect what you say. Packing them in shabby boxes that are string wrapped with duct tape will send another message. Also "politely" advise the inspector that it is fragile! Fragile stickers on the outside will also announce this. Most will be respectful of your models if you are polite and don't disrespect them.

 

Another thing to do and start now, is to get TSA pre approved. This gets you in the TSA special line. You become a "known" traveler and this makes them much less suspicious. The line has fewer travelers in it and the restrictions are reduce, like you don't have to take off your shoes. Because there are fewer travelers, the agents are much less stressed and will treat you better.

 

Here is one last tip and it will be controversial to say the least. If you can afford it, fly first class. You get to board first so you will get the prefered space in the overhead. You have wider seats so the space under the seat in front of you is wider. There is more leg room so you will not be squeezed if you put your models on the floor rather than in the over head. Also your baggage gets priority handling and will be the first off the carousel at the other end. I have found that on cross country flights, if you start now, you can find first class tickets for only a little more than an economy seat in many cases. This isn't always true, but cheap first class tickets are not uncommon. It also is far less stressful to travel that way.

 

Good luck and I'll see you in Phoenix!

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Pete and Ron make excellent points. I, too, would emphasis that approaching the TSA staff with attitude will be counter- productive. They are doing an important job and we model builders are no more entitled to a free pass on security than anyone else. My personal experience with the TSA (and I have flown models many times to the Nationals) has always been positive. I always try to engage them in a conversation about what the models are and about the competition. Often, they are enthused about the miniatures. I have always had a positive experience and nothing has been broken yet. But approach them with a chip on your shoulder and they can and will try to knock it off. You do catch more flies with honey.

 

I always travel with clear boxes with clear plastic wrap for padding. They should be, as Ron suggested, low enough to sit below the sides of the trays. They should be small enough to fit under the seat in front of you. Putting them in the overhead is a non-starter! Even if you put your models in first, subsequent travelers wil shove it around trying to fit in a suitcase they should have checked. If you think the TSA is rough on a package of models marked "fragile," watch your fellow passengers try to squeeze 50 lbs. of luggage in a 25 lbs. overhead!

 

Whatever class you travel in, do not pick a seat that has no seat and hence no underseat space ahead of it.

 

If you are concerned about size of case that will fit under the seat ahead of you, the dimensions of underseat spaces for each aircraft is available on line. But keep in mind that the space between your seat edge and the seat back in front of you may be smaller than the underseat where the model case is to go. You may have to tip the case at a sharp angle to get it on the floor. Be sure, therefore, your models are secure within the carrying case.

 

Good luck! Nick Flippone

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Thanks for the feedback guys.

 

My biggest concern has been the amount of inspection to expect. I was always planning on getting a clear storage box that would fit as carry-on, preferably under the seat. Most of the ones I've used are strong enough to put up with some banging and as long as I've done a good job in anchoring the models inside everything should be OK.

 

Once packed, I was worried that the whole thing would have to be opened and probably fondled. It sounds like that will happen even though the models can be seen through the lid and sides. And, of course, there's the issue of PE, metal figures, etc..

 

These issues will certainly impact what I take and what I may build in the next few months. At this point a 54mm figure probably makes more sense than an HMS Victory.

 

Rick

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One caution about light plastic containers. Make sure you have them vented. A very small hole or two in the lid will do. In spite of what you may think, there are significant changes in air pressure in an aircraft. Typical cabin pressure altitude is around 9,000 feet. Going up will cause the lid to pop open and if it gets resealed it will cause the case to compress. A friend had a model damaged when the lid compressed enough to crush a model. That is why I suggested the better case. They have pressure relief valves on them.

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Interesting! I never would have thought of that. Thanks. Nick

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one thing to keep in mind when making airline reservations....many airlines now restrict carry-on bags with their economy fares.  If you buy the cheapest ticket, double check the fine print, some tickets will restrict your carry-on to just one personal item like a purse or laptop bag.  If you show up at the airport with a box of models they might demand that you upgrade your ticket ( $$$ ) or send the box as a checked bag.

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As Nick was saying above, approach the TSA with the right attitude and you shouldn't have any problems.  You can also request that they hand check the container with the models because of their delicacy.  It's worked for me.  And most recently, I've used small clear plastic containers made by a company called Snapware because of the way the lids attach and the convenient handles.  No endorsement, no attachment, just what I found to be practical.

Steve

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All good points. I would take as a carry on, if possible and be prepared to open it.

Coming back from the Atlanta show (or was it Orlando)- one of my buys was a big chunk of resin. looked off in the xray and immediately got flagged. I knew exactly what the TSA guy was talking about, and went right to it in the bag.  You could argue about it, but that's a game where the traveler never wins.

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Excellent point about TSA by all.  Engage the screeners in a friendly way and let them know what it is inside your box.  I have had to open my box many times but only to allow the screeners to see the model.  Most any happy to see the actual model(s).  I build 1/35 military vehicles, tanks, etc.

I make my own box each year to fit the model/bases and comply with the size restrictions for the overhead bin.  In all the 20+ Nats I have attended , I have driven to only 3.  The carry-on box I make is from cardboard.  Sears has been very helpful with cardboard used for large appliances.  I build the box with a removable top and a folding end (one side only).  Cardboard strips are glued along the inside walls of the box to "lock" the model base in place for the trip.  Duct tape is my friend in building the box  : )  BTW, I always glue my models to the base.  Nylon straps secure the box closed and provide me with a handle to carry it.  I put the box in the overhead bin and have never had a model damaged...even from a rough landing.

Good luck,

Mark

 

 

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On a slightly different  tangent....I wonder how many participants fly to the conventions rather than drive?

 

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36 minutes ago, Dick Montgomery said:

On a slightly different  tangent....I wonder how many participants fly to the conventions rather than drive?

 

If I can I would rather fly. I really dislike driving. From NYC, 3 hrs used to be my limit. But then my sis moved to Pittsburgh. I flew at first but the cost was unbelievable for a 45 minute flight. So then my limit became 6 hrs., which coincidentally  gets me to the  Nats in the Va. Beach area. :smiley2:        Otherwise I'm always flying.  God bless the guys that do, but a multi day road trip is a non starter for me. :laugh:

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Hi Kev,

I have to drive 6 hours just to get out of my state. Well, Mexico is 3.5 hrs, but I haven't gone south of the border in years.
It makes sense, though, that your decision to fly/drive is based on the mileage, or rather, the drive-time. I don't think there's data on the number of flyers/number of drivers though. At least I've never heard of such data being compiled. I think I'll be flying into Phoenix.....wifie and I made a two week road trip out of our previous visit to Phoenix.

 

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On 3/25/2018 at 7:21 PM, Dick Montgomery said:

Hi Kev,

I have to drive 6 hours just to get out of my state. Well, Mexico is 3.5 hrs, but I haven't gone south of the border in years.
It makes sense, though, that your decision to fly/drive is based on the mileage, or rather, the drive-time. I don't think there's data on the number of flyers/number of drivers though. At least I've never heard of such data being compiled. I think I'll be flying into Phoenix.....wifie and I made a two week road trip out of our previous visit to Phoenix.

In TX? I believe it. I had a friend (RIP) that in his younger days was a traveling salesman based in El Paso. His HQ (Chicago) once told him to pop over to Texarkana to see a client. He told them "You go. Check the map You're closer than I am." Measuring as the crow flies he was right. LOL

I often joked to my wifey that we could make the drive out West, but then I'd have to sell the car as there was NO WAY I was driving back.  Haha

Anyway, back to the thread. ;)

 

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I am driving as I did the last time Nat's were in Phoenix.  Flying actually takes longer.  By the time I factor in the time to get to the airport, check in, go through TSA, wait to board,  fly,  disembark, wait for luggage, go to the the auto rental counter or wait for the shuttle and drive to the airport, it takes close to 6 hours.  Not to mention the $700 for rental car and airline ticket.  I can drive from San Diego in about five and a half hours for the cost of one tank of gas and I don't have the cost of a  rental car or wait for a cranky shuttle driver.   Yup, I'll drive. 

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On ‎3‎/‎27‎/‎2018 at 1:22 AM, PeteJ said:

I am driving as I did the last time Nat's were in Phoenix.  Flying actually takes longer.  By the time I factor in the time to get to the airport, check in, go through TSA, wait to board,  fly,  disembark, wait for luggage, go to the the auto rental counter or wait for the shuttle and drive to the airport, it takes close to 6 hours.  Not to mention the $700 for rental car and airline ticket.  I can drive from San Diego in about five and a half hours for the cost of one tank of gas and I don't have the cost of a  rental car or wait for a cranky shuttle driver.   Yup, I'll drive. 

Sure, I would drive too if it was that close--but is isn't this time.  For me it is most of a two-day drive.  Given that I have to be at work for part of WEDNESDAY,  you can see what prompted this topic.

Thanks to everyone for the input. You have confirmed much of what I knew/suspected.   The plan is to have the models the only thing I carry on.  I've already done some research and picked a box that is within the size limits.  The box will be clear  and sturdy so they can get an up-front idea of what's inside.  As long as it doesn't get flipped upside down I should be good.

Rick

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Don't like to fly, never did. TSA only made it worse.  Of the 25 or so Conventions I've attended I drove to almost all of them, including NY to Phoenix solo last time.  Don't have to worry about baggage restrictions, crying or kicking kids behind me, too little space to sit comfortably or anything getting lost, stolen or broken.  First time I was in Phoenix I shipped my goodies home and UPS lost them.

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On 3/31/2018 at 1:37 PM, RJackson said:

Sure, I would drive too if it was that close--but is isn't this time.  For me it is most of a two-day drive.  Given that I have to be at work for part of WEDNESDAY,  you can see what prompted this topic.

Thanks to everyone for the input. You have confirmed much of what I knew/suspected.   The plan is to have the models the only thing I carry on.  I've already done some research and picked a box that is within the size limits.  The box will be clear  and sturdy so they can get an up-front idea of what's inside.  As long as it doesn't get flipped upside down I should be good.

Rick

Rick, just make sure to pressure relieve the box.  A couple of very small holes drilled through will do the job.  Somewhere between a 60 and a 70 wire gauge drill bit and a pin vise with do the job.  

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