Flying with ham radio gear
Ok, so you have the opportunity to travel to some place really cool…you have to fly to get there and you want to take your rig with you…how in the world do you pack something like that? I found myself asking that exact question on a recent trip to Hawaii. I wanted to take my rig with me to do a Parks on the Air activation. Seems simple enough, right?
Well typically I would throw my Apache case with my FT-891 in it, my 20Ah LiFePo4 battery, my PAC-12 antenna and some coax in the back of my car and off to the park I go. Why do I mention specifically what case I have and what size and chemistry of battery I have? Because it matters! And of course when I turned to Google, there weren’t any immediate and obvious answers to what I was looking for.
I figured there had to be some kind of restriction on flying with a lithium battery. Thankfully the airlines spell that out pretty clearly, no lithium batteries in checked luggage! Sweet, one answer down! Ok, battery needs to be in my carry on…now how big of battery can I bring in my carry on? After digging around on the TSA site, the answer was 100Wh1. Looks like I need a different battery.
A special note about the battery. Make sure that the terminals are not exposed! This can be handled simply with electrical tape.
What about the antenna? A PAC-12 is a vertical with a coil and a bunch of wire for radials and a ground spike. Isn’t that going to look like a b-word (you know, the b-word you can’t say on an airplane)? I didn’t even consider carrying that on the plane, but I know TSA scans your checked luggage as well. I decided that I would help a curious screener out by including my FCC license with the antenna.
Great, so now we have the battery and antenna covered. What about the radio and coax? Well coax seemed like a pretty innocuous thing to pack in the checked luggage, so I wasn’t worried about that. This just leaves the radio. Again I wasn’t worried about the TSA portion of the travel experience when it came to the radio (it is pretty obvious what it is), however size and weight are a concern. When you pay per bag, and weight can cost you some serious money on a round trip, throwing the old IC-7300 in the luggage wasn’t going to work. If I was flying on Southwest, however, I would have just made my second bag my Apache case with the radio in it. Way to go Southwest for being cool with checked bags! Alas, I was NOT flying Southwest.
I had anticipated taking a radio with me on this trip when I was planning it earlier in the year. I just didn’t know which radio to take. I decided to purchase a Yaesu FT-891 with both this trip and general POTA activations in mind. For one thing, I got tired of packing and unpacking my ICOM 7300. For another, I just needed something more portable.
The FT-891 was a perfect fit for this trip! I ended up putting it in my backpack with my laptop and iPad and carried it on. It went through the TSA screening with no issue at all! I must disclaim that I have TSA Precheck, so I wasn’t required to remove my laptop from my backpack.
Alright, I think that covers all of the gear needed to setup a station away from home. I had zero issues clearing security in Cincinnati (CVG) or Maui (OGG).
Have fun on your next trip!