Holiday Travel – with your gear

X-ray of a Cypres Equipped Rig

Ahhhh, the holidays. For normal people, this is the season of family time by the fire, roasting chestnuts, paying cards, hanging out with sweet baby Jesus in the manger, presents, food and eggnog.
But for many skydivers – it’s boogie time instead. Lots of us clock out of the family fun a little early and head South (or East/or West, rarely North) for one of the many holiday boogies offered.

Since we now live in times where airline travel resembles jungle warfare, many jumpers choose to carry their precious gear on. It can both save a bit of money (that would be better spent on jumping or beer) and also makes sure that your toys arrive with you – not 3 days after the boogie is over.
However, it’s no secret that TSA and other security agencies get a little tight-assed over the holidays. The volume of people traveling increases exponentially and you add a lot of the “non-frequent-flyer” types to the mix. As a result, security lines get longer and TSA tempers get shorter.
Add to that mix a cocky, pierced, tattooed, loud and obnoxious skydiver lugging on 30 lbs of DB Cooper style equipment – and we are headed straight for the cavity search room.

To make sure things go smooth, keep in mind the following travel tips when you decide to carry on your gear:

PD New Beginning

  • Be polite to the TSA cats. More flies with honey than vinegar and all that jazz…
  • If you must wear a t shirt that says “I JUMP FROM AIRPLANES”, wear it under other clothes. The goal here is to blend in, not stand out. Once you are through security, you can strip down and fly your freak flag freely again.
  • Put your gear in a bag, mini-gear bag or some kind of backpack – whatever fits in that coveted overhead bin. It helps to protect your handles and doesn’t frighten your co-travelers or TSA agents the way a big old rig in plain view does. Remove your hook knife and put in checked baggage.
  • If you have an automatic opener, make sure to carry the little X-Ray cards/documentation with you and be prepared to show them. Here is the one for Cypres, and the one for Vigil.
  • Read and print out a copy of the TSA guidelines for traveling with a parachute – keep one with you so you can show to TSA staff if needed.
  • If any problems arise, keep your cool and calmly ask for a supervisor – they are often able to take care of the situation quickly. For US skydivers, USPA asks that you get in touch with the headquarters if you receive an unsatisfactory treatment – making sure to provide details such as airport, flight number, date and time of flight, along with the names of TSA officials involved.

Oh and for our Californian friends that have trouble sleeping and plan on traveling with their medically prescribed marijuana, just make sure you don’t pack it up so that it looks like a hand grenade on the X ray screen.

All in all, the process usually goes pretty smooth – and now that the new body scanners are all the rage, getting all worked up over a rig doesn’t seem to happen as much.
If you have any tips, suggestions or good stories from a TSA checkpoint, by all means share in the comments below.

Safe travels!

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