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Matt DI

Flying with Inflatables

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I know this has probably been discussed before but is there anything special you have to do to take an inflatable pfd on a commercial flight?

 

 

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United.com says:

We accept one carbon dioxide-powered inflatable life jacket as a checked or carry-on bag. You must pack carbon dioxide cartridges as checked bags.

We’ll also accept up to two small nonflammable gas cylinders fitted into the life jacket and up to two small spare cartridges.

If the life jacket has flares or flare guns attached to it, you must remove them or we won’t accept the jacket.

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Oh, I thought you meant one of these...

image.png.5089ac417e3a0816e98a7af1fc272051.png

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Great question.  I researched this at great length when I was on US Sailing's Safety at Sea Committee. Dealt with the DOT, FAA, TSA, UN, IATA, and ICAO.

#1. The CO2 cylinder is classified as a Hazardous Material (U.S.) and Dangerous Good (Internationally).

#2. Like carrying guns and bullets on planes (done all of the time), it MUST be declared when checking in.  Don't do it, the crime is as big as carrying any other dangerous good aboard. Don't tell them, the fine is up to $500,000, and up to 5 years in prison.

#3. Each airline has their own Risk Tolerance. They pay their own insurance premiums based on what they choose to do with the airplanes they own.  1/2 of U.S. airlines allow the PFD with 2 cylinders total to go in checked luggage, 1/2 of airlines ban customer CO2 cylinders on their airplanes anywhere anytime.

Reference: https://www.ussailing.org/education/adult/safety-at-sea-courses/safety-at-sea-resources/traveling-with-your-lifejacket-tsa-guidelines/

 

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Delta did not allow CO2 last time I flew with them. They got mad when I pointed out that each seat life jacket and the life raft in the ceiling had CO2 cylinders.

Call ahead.

Good luck

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3 hours ago, ropetrick said:

Delta did not allow CO2 last time I flew with them. They got mad when I pointed out that each seat life jacket and the life raft in the ceiling had CO2 cylinders.

Call ahead.

Good luck

Every argument that can be used was brought up in my effort (this being one of them). The answer given is, your CO2 cylinder is not stowed under the seat. The cylinders installed under the seat went through inspection before it was installed there. Yours is stowed in either the luggage storage over the seat or in the cargo hold. If it inflates accidentally, it can open the over the seat locker potentially harming someone or the crew, or in the cargo hold injure a baggage handler.  Next answer, the manufacturer of the cylinders does not want them on airplanes. They said that the cylinders are just stamped CO2. The make identical ones that hold O2, Propane and other more dangerous gases and believes these other gas cylinders could be modified to look like CO2, and there isn't enough of this going on in order to train everyone in the airline industry and TSA inspectors to tell the difference.

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This from the Delta website today.

 

Personal Flotation Devices

Though we provide life jackets to each and every passenger, you are welcome to bring your own. One self-inflating life jacket, containing no more than two small carbon dioxide cylinders plus no more than two spare cylinders, is allowed as checked or carry-on baggage.

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If you're flying in the United States, I can offer the following:

I've flown many times in the past 6 years with an inflatable PFD, and all I can say is that it's a crapshoot.  Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
US Sailing has an article with decent tips:  https://www.ussailing.org/education/adult/safety-at-sea-courses/safety-at-sea-resources/traveling-with-your-lifejacket-tsa-guidelines/

While checking with your airline is important, it's also important to check with the TSA website.  In both cases, the rules change often and the employees may or may not be aware of current standards.  Print out the web pages (with dates) and keep with your cartridges.  Note that the TSA website trumps airline's rules.

Uninstall the cartridges before you travel.  If they confiscate the cartridges, at least they won't take your vest.  They WILL NOT allow you to remove the cartridges if installed in the vest while on airport grounds (duh).

Put them in your checked baggage first, but save room in your carry-on just in case.  Always keep the PFD and cartridges together.

BE NICE!  Arrive early, be courteous.  Declare your PFD at the ticket counter.  This one usually stumps them.  Be nice about it.  If they allow it in your checked bag - you're probably good to go.  Thank them for being so supportive to the sailing community. 
Sometimes, the agents will tell you they're only allowed in your carry on bags...  (IMHO: this means the agent don't know WTF is going on and let TSA deal with it)  So, take your cartridges, your life vest, your printouts, and put them in your carry on bag.  Then, BE NICE to the checkpoint folks.  No need to declare anything to the checkpoint folks - their scanners can see into your soul.

Last time I flew with a PFD was March 2019.  Said goodbye to a couple cartridges that trip.  On a trip in 2018, I flew through several countries with them and all was fine.  I can go on from there...  Cartridges in new packaging vs unpackaged doesn't seem to matter.  Good luck to you, and I'd love to hear other's experiences!

 

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5/5 with mine. Probably just jinxed myself though. Usually involved a supe coming over to clear me through but haven't had to throw a cylinder away in a while. 

Philly. Fort Lauderdale, Chicago, Providence. 

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On 1/16/2020 at 2:55 PM, sugarbird said:

Oh, I thought you meant one of these...

image.png.5089ac417e3a0816e98a7af1fc272051.png

Sugarbird, that was the first thing I thought of too.

I want that!

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On 1/17/2020 at 8:56 PM, committeeboat said:

If you're flying in the United States, I can offer the following:

I've flown many times in the past 6 years with an inflatable PFD, and all I can say is that it's a crapshoot.  Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
US Sailing has an article with decent tips:  https://www.ussailing.org/education/adult/safety-at-sea-courses/safety-at-sea-resources/traveling-with-your-lifejacket-tsa-guidelines/

While checking with your airline is important, it's also important to check with the TSA website.  In both cases, the rules change often and the employees may or may not be aware of current standards.  Print out the web pages (with dates) and keep with your cartridges.  Note that the TSA website trumps airline's rules.

Uninstall the cartridges before you travel.  If they confiscate the cartridges, at least they won't take your vest.  They WILL NOT allow you to remove the cartridges if installed in the vest while on airport grounds (duh).

Put them in your checked baggage first, but save room in your carry-on just in case.  Always keep the PFD and cartridges together.

BE NICE!  Arrive early, be courteous.  Declare your PFD at the ticket counter.  This one usually stumps them.  Be nice about it.  If they allow it in your checked bag - you're probably good to go.  Thank them for being so supportive to the sailing community. 
Sometimes, the agents will tell you they're only allowed in your carry on bags...  (IMHO: this means the agent don't know WTF is going on and let TSA deal with it)  So, take your cartridges, your life vest, your printouts, and put them in your carry on bag.  Then, BE NICE to the checkpoint folks.  No need to declare anything to the checkpoint folks - their scanners can see into your soul.

Last time I flew with a PFD was March 2019.  Said goodbye to a couple cartridges that trip.  On a trip in 2018, I flew through several countries with them and all was fine.  I can go on from there...  Cartridges in new packaging vs unpackaged doesn't seem to matter.  Good luck to you, and I'd love to hear other's experiences!

 

Same here.  Many airline staff don’t know the rules. Like you, I find the rules permitting life jackets online, print them out, and put them next to my life jackets. I also take the co2 bottle out so they don’t try to take the whole thing. 
 

Once I had trouble from United because although United permitted them, the regional airline flying under United colors did not. Of course, no where on the United website did it mention that. I also lost a couple of bottles flying from the Philippines and China. I’ve found the EU generally more understanding. France had no issue with my sextant as a carry-on. 

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Good call on bringing the printed rules from your airline. I looked up the rules before flying Southwest, and they were OK (up to 4 CO2). However when I told the gate agent they said no. After some argument and pointing out that their website said it was OK, managers were called and finally it was allowed. The gate agents didn't know the current rules. 

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So as op I flew down to lauderdale yesterday on Delta with my pfd. Guy at check in said had to go carry on, that TSA would reject it if checked. No problem thats what I wanted to do anyway. Go through the line and the TSA agents pull my bag. Look through and say I can't bring the cartridge. I point out that the print out just under the cartridge are their rules saying its allowed, ignore me for awhile and get 2 other agents to look, all saying no. Finally a supervisor walks over and says is this a pfd? Yes I said as I explained earlier. Sup says that's OK then and says thanks for your patience. All good in the End! 

But for the fact irs fucking 40 degrees in Lauderdale WTF!! 

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On 1/20/2020 at 8:32 AM, Rasputin22 said:

Sugarbird, that was the first thing I thought of too.

I want that!

why didn't these make a bigger splash?

 

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1 hour ago, floater said:

why didn't these make a bigger splash?

 

    Well actually they did. Make a big splash that is. As in landing hard and compromising the wing and motor mount structure. Someone brought a gaggle of them into St Thomas and they got a lot of attention for a while. They were doing lots of promo flying along the waterfront in Charlotte Amalie with a crew of hotdog pilots getting pretty wild at the controls. Looked very spectacular and exciting but the idea was to have a couple craft at each of the big beach resorts and have the pilots take tourists up on 'thrill rides'. Apparently it was a bit more thrilling than most people were expecting.

    I think that the maintenance issues especially with the tweaked snowmobile engines and just general sand/salt environment meant that for the first year things were all fun but the fabric wings and aluminum frames an rigging wire did not do well without being fully freshwater rinsed after each use. They would get dragged up the beach after a flight and tethered down perhaps but just sitting in the tropic sun soon took its toll.

    The RIB hulls were pretty bulletproof and after the insurance rates got raised for the tourist ride operations they soon threw in the towel and started selling the craft. I went and looked at a couple of them as they weren't much more than a new Rib which I was in need of at that time. I thought I could get a year or two out of the fading hang glider fabric wings but when I saw that the aircraft grade aluminum tubing and brackets and such had deteriorated in such a short time I got cold feet. The snow mobile engines were air cooled but being designed for a much cooler ambient operating temps (snow, remember?) tended to overheat when not flying and when taxiing and launching and landing they became hybrid air/raw water cooled which didn't do them much good either. I realized that I would probably kill myself long before I ditched the flying portion of the craft and just hung an outboard to use the RIB bottom as a tender. 

 

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