Account of Flying with Firearms

Deviant Ollam
This one's full of winners. Photos of TSA handling my firearm... then photos of TSA crawling through an x-ray machine.



Luggage & Gear
My future wife and I made a series of trips at the end of the year to take meetings in Silicon Valley and for her to give a keynote in D.C. As can be seen in the photos, we were still using Pelican Protector cases for much of our travel at this time. Abloy PL330s appear in many photos, too.


First Leg
Cindy from Delta was checking folk in super fast this early morning. We were completely through the line within three minutes and proceeding down to the TSA screening area to depart SEA. A young and perhaps inexperienced TSA screener proceeded to pull my whole case apart and then ask "where is th firearm?" before then opening my range bag and handling my gun, which is totally improper.

After about five minutes of this nonsense, we were cleared there and off to passenger screening. Pre-Check was a mess at both checkpoints and the TSA were generally in a bad mood, even in the premium lanes. A young fellow (named Bruckheimer?) was giving me static about the airline butter knife in my bag, but STSO Josh immediately told him it was fine and acted huffy that the other TSA would have called him over to even ask about that.


Second Leg
There was no line at the Sky Priority and Special Services desk when we checked in at San Jose. Steve assisted us and had orange tags going into our Pelican cases lightning fast. The bags were sent back on the belt, which of course annoyed us. Six minutes after sending the cases back, Steve approached us to ask for our luggage tag numbers so he could check on the status (nice, him being proactive!). Four minutes later he came back saying the TSA needed a key. He walked us down to an outside door (why we all didn't just go there in the first place is beyond me... so puzzling) and knocked. A minute later, Steve was taking our key to the TSA and we were left to wait outside Door A96. Seven minutes later, Steve came back with the key and said all was well, but he couldn't get the name of the agent who did the screening.


Third Leg
At 08:25 Phillip A was assisting us to check in for our flight out of Dulles. "Do you have TSA-Approved locks?" he asked. When I explained that of course we did not, he responded, "Oh, OK... then we'll walk down the hall." Bizarrely, he wanted to get a rolling cart for the luggage despite the fact that I showed him that our cases have wheels. Whatever. Six minutes after we had approached his counter, we were about to walk with him. However, he was repeatedly trying to call the TSA to ensure someone would be there (at the special screening area) and no one was picking up. With no certainty as to who would be at the special screening area, we all walked down to CM-2 (the scanner just behind the Chop House restaurant) to find... nobody from the TSA was there.

Phillip went off to find someone while we waited. Four minutes later, he stated someone was coming shortly. "You know that they're letting us send gun cases down with TSA locks now? We love that," he chirped. "You do it eventhough it's improper?" I asked. "Yeah," he happily responded.

After nearly ten minutes of waiting, STSO Almansa slowly strolled up, dialed only the final digit on a Master 175 padlock that was hanging on a locker, and proceeded to fire up this screening checkpoint. A minute later, the machine broke down (or jammed) while processing our cases. What happened next can only be truly appreciated in pictures...



After about a minute of her crawling around inside of the x-ray machine (something I must admit that I had never seen in my hundreds of thousands of air miles traveled!) we were informed that our cases were cleared and we proceeded to our gate.

As had become customary in Seattle, our luggage appeared on the Oversize belt next to the BSO and we showed ID to collect our gun cases there.


Final Details & Thoughts
I am tempted to call that last TSA screening five stars, since witnessing someone crawl through an in-line x-ray luggage scanning machine is just about the most hilarious thing I've seen ever at an airport security checkpoint... but due to the fact that the TSA didn't have anyone working at the only firearms checkpoint and we had to wait loads of extra time because of this fact, I'm dropping the rating on that one to 3.5 stars.


Air Travel Ratings
If you don't have the time or the desire to read the full text of someone's account of air travel, you can simply refer to the rating shown at the conclusion of each portion of that person's journey. The following criteria are used in assigning these ratings...

Four Stars

wheels up - luggage screened directly in front of you; you were certain the firearms cleared
wheels down - luggage arrived promptly and undisturbed

Three Stars
wheels up - luggage screened relatively near you you; you were fairly sure the firearms cleared
wheels down - luggage arrived with little delay but possibly bearing zip ties or other nonsense

Two Stars
wheels up - luggage screened somewhere totally removed from you; only indirect assurances that your firearms cleared
wheels down - luggage was very slow to arrive and/or you had some difficult interactions with airline staff

One Star
wheels up - luggage screened somewhere totally removed from you; no one could assure you that your firearms cleared
wheels down - luggage was misrouted or mishandled and had to be delivered to you later

Zero Stars
This is a special category for irreparable damage to luggage, locks, or your firearms... or outright theft or loss of them.
half-star results are possible... naturally, they involve partial or mitigated problems that somehow fall in-between the above categories