Ham Radios and the TSA

Have you wondered if it’s okay to take ham radio equipment on commercial airplanes? Will the TSA confiscate the radios from your checked luggage or after they scan them in your carry-on luggage?

Guess what, as of December 2013, it’s not an issue, even though the radios, antenna wires, and other gear might look very suspicious. An over-zealous TSA agent may think you’re a terrorist. But you should do the following to ensure you have no problems on your trip and your expensive gear does not get damaged.

I decided to write about this because in February of 2014 I’m planning to go to southern California for a media event. I write a nationally syndicated newspaper column, AsktheBuilder.com, and I have a weekly newsletter that goes out to about 100,000 consumers. Behr Paints, the house brand of Home Depot, is hosting a 40-hour event spaced over three days to bring the media up to speed on all new things about Behr Paints. I’m lucky to get the invite. Many want this, but few are chosen.

Because I have close friends in this part of California, I always try to spend a few more days in the area visiting and recreating. I plan to do just that on this trip, and one day will be spent hiking and doing CW QSOs from a SOTA summit if at all possible.

Here’s a video I made during this California trip trying to do a SOTA activation. I was just learning CW and my code speed was just above 7 WPM. It’s funny to look back on those days!

Just a few days ago I received in the mail a used – but in brand-new condition – HB-1B multi-band QRP radio. It’s a beauty. I plan to take it and my Yaesu VX-7R HT with me on the trip along with all needed gear.

I rarely check luggage as I travel light. I plan to carefully pack all my radio gear in a translucent sturdy food storage container. I’ll pack all the things so they’re not rubbing against one another. The container will protect the gear and keep them waterproof.

I’ll also carry a laminated copy of my FCC license. I plan to make copies of the front pages of the owner’s manuals of the rigs so a TSA agent can see the rigs are radios and not explosive devices. One never knows!

If you decide to put your radios in checked luggage be aware a TSA agent may unpack them for inspection, but she/he MAY NOT repack them with the care required to survive the torture of luggage abuse. Think about taking your radio gear in carry-on luggage where you control its destiny.

If you decide to put your gear in checked luggage, be sure to place a note in with the gear explaining what it is, how FRAGILE it is, and a copy of your FCC license. This should allow your gear to make it with you to your final destination.

Good luck! I hope you have as much fun with your radio equipment on your next business or pleasure trip as I plan to do. Come back here to look for stories about me and my traveling radio gear!

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I invest time writing and taping videos to help other hams like you save time and lower their blood pressure. Frequently equipment manuals are lacking key details that cause frustration. I’m trying to fill in those gaps when I can.

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One thought on “Ham Radios and the TSA

  1. You will want to make sure you have a charged battery in your HT because TSA will ask you to turn it on and back off.


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