Regulations for "weapons" on airplanes?

I normally carry a Leatherman pocket tool with me. It’s a folding combination of pliers, a can opener, 4 screwdriver heads, and a 2 inch knife blade. My problem is when I go on a plane trip, can I carry it on my person? Is it considered a weapon? (Considering you hear about kids at schools who get suspended for butter knives in their lunch sacks, etc., I’m not sure) I’d put in in my checked baggage, except I usually only take carry-on bags.

Even if I took it up to the guard at the xray machine at the airport, and they let me through, what’s to say the guard at the airport on the other end wouldn’t have a problem with it on the return trip? Is there a regulation somewhere that could definatively tell me one way or the other?

I got stopped at an Xray machine one time for carrying a screwdriver.

It wasn’t a “real” screwdriver. It was the kind that has all the different attachments inside the hollow handle, so you can screw all sorts of things.

The guy looked at it, and said it was OK, but said that if it had been a real screwdriver, I would not have been allowed to take it on the plane.

I travel with my Swiss army knife all the time. I just drop it in the tray at the metal detector along with my keys and change, and the attendant has never challenged me.


“Believe those who seek the truth.
Doubt those who find it.” --Andre Gide

I travel with my tool-logic ™ credit-card size utility knife. I use it as my keychain, so when I go through the metal detectors, I just put it in there. It doesn’t look like a knife until the blade is drawn, so only one guard has ever asked me about it. I told him it was my keychain. :slight_smile: True, and yet not quite what he was asking.

A “guard” at your destination would not know you have the item in question, since you don’t have to pass security when deplaning/departing the terminal.

I’ve gotten on airplanes with a small Swiss Army penknife on a key chain, but I would not attempt it with its larger brother with the corkscrew.

I meant the security for entering the airport on the return leg of the trip, I realize there’s no one checking you while you leave…

The summary of the Federal knifes-on-planes law is, it’s okay as long as it’s not a switchblade, has a blade no longer than 3", and doesn’t have a serrated edge. I used to know of a website that talked about knife laws, but a busybody friend of mine updated my web browser and all my bookmarks are now gone. 8-(

The thing is, a lot of Swiss Armys, Leathermen etc. have serrated blades, and people seem to be able to take those on planes without a big hitch. This might be because they are not considered knives at all, but rather, tools, or even keychains as mentioned above. And I’ve never heard anything about screwdrivers being illegal. So basically, the law is probably not enforced consistently; rather, the security folks will probably get mad if it looks scary, and won’t if it don’t. At least, you probably won’t get arrested unless it’s a really scary-looking knife, or a switchblade.

Nothing I write about any person or group should be applied to a larger group.

  • Boris Badenov

Well, I was unable to find a direct answer on the FAA website. But at the Alaska division of the FAA, there is a [Passenger’s Rights Pamphlet]( rites.html) which says “POCKET KNIVES over four inches may not be carried by a passenger on an aircraft. They may be transported in checked luggage.” There is also a blanket prohibition on ULU knives, but I have no idea what one of them is.

So measure your Leatherman (heh), make sure it’s not a ULU knife, and you should be OK.

Remember that the FAA standards are minimums. Airlines may enforce more strict standards

Livin’ on Tums, Vitamin E and Rogaine

Damn links. I was sure I got that one right.

Anyhoo, I forgot to mention something you doubtless already know, but which bears repeating.

The rules are likely different for international flights. You never know what those ferriners are going to confiscate.

KAL (Korean Air) used to confiscate everybody’s batteries! I guess to keep your electronic stuff from interfering. That was a drag, because they didn’t announce it until boarding!! KAL sucks.

Here is a link on Ulu knives:
They’re really cool, and very Alaskan.

I’ve carried the standard Leatherman past several American airport security checks by putting it in my carryon bag (there’s a whole thread on the inattentiveness of airport security here somewhere). I’ve never been questioned.

I did get my bags searched in Montreal once, and the guy disassembled my toolkit (I’m an engineer, so it’s full of wires and fuses and meters, etc). He held up two of my terminal-block screwdrivers and told me I couldn’t have these on the plane. Why, I asked. “I think you know”, he replied. He then held up just one and said “If it had only been one, that would be different”. What was I gonna do, use them as chopsticks? He confiscated my good screwdriver and let me go.

“It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive”
Bruce Springsteen

My parents play bar darts, and have their own sets of darts to throw.

You can see where this is going. They tried to take them on a trip with them in the carry-on luggage. The darts were confiscated after the X-ray check. They had to pick them up when they got home.

Safest bet is to put anything remotely weapon-like in cary on. Airport security is inconsistant at the same terminal and baffeling when traveling through several.

Stories of the strange;

Flight from Tahiti, wooden “war club” confiscated in flight by aircrew after it passed security.

Flight between Samoan islands, Radio was allowed on the trip over, but had to surrender batteries on return. Same airline, same damn plane even.

Alarm clock confiscated by security out of SFO. Go figure.

If you are going to bring a firearm, call first then immediately declare it at check in. Don’t bring amunition.

“remotely weapon-like in cary on”

Make that “checked baggage”

I regularly travel with a Swiss Army kinfe on planes in Europe and NAmerica, its fine as long as the blade is less than 2 inches. And as far as I know, if you declare it when you go though security as opposed to, say, hiding it or somehting dumb, they don’t arrest you, the worst that ever happended to me was in Saudi when they insisted on putting it in a littel envelope and checking it with the rest of the baggage.

I asked the security guard after seeing a large number of men with “toadstabber” pocket knives going through security in U.P.
Michigan. The rule I got was “Open the blade and lay the blade across your palm. If it doesn’t reach all the way across then it’s OK to carry on the plane.” The only problem you may have is if the security guard has small hands.

You can’t push a rope

My regular everyday business bag has had a Swiss Army knife in it for years (can’t remember the last time I used it). I’ve gone through thousands of bag checks and never been buttonholed.

I DID lose a nice (and illegal) butterfly knife I used as a box cutter on a flight out of Toronto once, but you know those Canucks. They told me I could check it, but I was already late for the flight, and I made a gift of it to the young security lady.

Has anyone noticed that, up until a few years ago during the renovation, there was a HOFFRITZ KNIFE STORE one hundred feet from the gate security check at LaGuardia Airport, NYC?

My wife once bought a nice pair of scissors there as a last-minute gift, and was promptly told that she couldn’t take 'em on the airplane…

…maybe I’ll open a franchise of Manny’s Elephant Guns and High Explosives at JFK-International.


To the OP…

I have the same Leatherman you described and I routinely take it aboard with me on domestic flights packed in my carry-on. Nary a whisper from airport security. In fact, I was noting this very same situation to friends the other day. I have always assumed that the x-ray operator simply didn’t know what they were looking at (very frightening!). But think about it… a Leatherman is made entirely of metal, and it’s folded on itself several times. What sort of image would it generate on an airport x-ray scanner? Does it actually look like a knife (albeit, one shorter than the proscribed lengths mentioned here) or is it just one big hunk of metal to the x-ray operator?

On another note, I also carry a miniature Leatherman on my keychain. No mistaking that one. Never had it confiscated or even questioned. Of course the blade is 1" long at best. But they always show a keen interest in my Palm Pilot. I’ve got to pull it out and turn it on to satisfy them.

That brings up another point (I’m full of 'um today!). In a previous life I was a videographer and used to travel quite a bit with my camera. Most freelance photographers do NOT trust their cameras to the apes in bagage handling and prefer to carry them on. I would usually try to get out of passing the camera through the x-ray machine (why take chances?) and sometimes the guards would comply and agree to hand inspect. Of course, hand inspecting a video camera usually means taking it out of the carry-on bag and turning it on to let them see through the viewfinder. Fine. They know it’s a real, functioning camera and they pass me through. WRONG!

Unfortunately, I know that I could pull most of the guts out of that camera, leaving only the minimum circuits required to run the viewfinder, then fill that vast empty space with God knows what. Of course, I’ve got nothing to smuggle, so America’s skies are safe from me, but what about everyone else who’s already thought of this. How safe do you feel now?

I remember one school-sponsored camping trip when I was in high school where some enterprising friends of mine decided to smuggle in waterguns (prohibited for some unknown reason). To do this, the opened up a portable stereo they were taking (I know, not exactly roughing it), and took out some of the non-essential stuff. Then they put the guns in. Fit right in, no problems. These are gun shaped and gun sized things! Makes you wonder how much you could get away with.