11 Bizarre Gadgets Confiscated by Airport Security
By K. Thor Jensen, PC Magazine, 4 September 2015.
By K. Thor Jensen, PC Magazine, 4 September 2015.
In the post-9/11 world, flying on airplanes isn't necessarily the luxurious experience it once was. Now we have to take off our shoes, empty our bags, and send everything through X-ray machines and bag scanners, and sometimes TSA agents just dump everything out anyway and sort through it with their bare hands.
The argument is that a little inconvenience is better than another national tragedy, and for the most part we agree with them. But this increased security has resulted in a massively larger amount of odd items being confiscated by airport screeners. You can follow the TSA on Instagram for an inside look at all the truly astounding thing its agents confiscate at our nation's airports. Pro tip: leave the meat slicer, road flares, and samurai swords at home.
People try to smuggle a lot of dumb things on airplanes, from guns to drugs. But some travellers make some truly strange decisions when packing their bags. Read on for their tales. Some stories are absurd, others are a little scary, but they'll all make you look at your fellow travellers a little closer.
1. Minions Fart Blaster
Needless to say, anything that looks like a firearm is going to trigger alarm bells in the heads of airport security agents. However, you'd have to be using the absolute loosest definition of the term to apply that to three-year-old Leo Fitzpatrick's new "Minions Fart Blaster," which he brought on an Aer Lingus flight in August 2015. Leo was flying from Dublin to Birmingham, England with his mother, but the tyke was devastated when security confiscated it, claiming that any "replica weapons" could not board the airplane. Airport officials told the family that they would keep it safe for him until he returned to Dublin.
2. Band Saw
Typically, airlines recommend that you only carry on things that you plan to use on the flight. So we definitely wonder what inspired somebody to try to go through security toting a DeWalt band saw. This happened at Jackson International Airport in Mississippi, where the in-flight carpenter tried to store the US$300 deep cut saw in a carry-on bag and bring it aboard. Needless to say, power tools aren't on the approved list, and the man wasn't allowed to take it. Oddly enough, he simply left it at the airport instead of checking it or putting it in his car, and we may never know why.
3. Lens Cleaner
One of the dumbest airport confiscations we've ever read about happened in 2014 when photographer Noel Patterson was flying from Manchester to Iceland. The security agents at the British airport spotted something unusual in his carry-on as he was going through the checkpoint and pulled it out. It was an air-powered lens cleaner, a small rubber bladder that connects to a plastic tube and, when squeezed, puffs dust and particles away from sensitive camera equipment. The agents confiscated it because, according to their policy, anything that "looks like a grenade" cannot be taken on a plane.
4. Homemade Handheld Gaming Device
Gamers are notorious for their dedication to their hobby, but this is ridiculous. In April 2015, the TSA spotted a weird shape inside a scanned bag and pulled it aside for further scrutiny. It was obviously some kind of handmade electronic contraption housed in a leather casing and attached to a fabric sleeve. Their first thought was "IED," so the bomb squad was called to safely extract it. It turned out, according to the owner, to be a "homemade handheld gaming device." From these pictures, it's difficult to tell exactly what this weird thing does; our best guess is that it's a vibration sleeve for force feedback.
5. Lipstick Taser
There's a veritable cottage industry of people coming up with new and different ways to bring contraband on planes, from hiding gold bars inside game consoles to putting drugs in jars of peanut butter. But one of the craziest things we've heard of happened in 2014 at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. When scanners revealed a strange shape inside a woman's bag, they searched it to discover what looked on the outside to be a tube of lipstick, but was actually a powerful taser. They confiscated it and sent her on her way, but it wasn't an isolated incident. The TSA found a similar device in Denver two years ago.
6. Hidden Throwing Knives
Some people try to bring dangerous items on airplanes by accident, which is understandable. Packing is hectic, and stuff you don't intend to bring can wind up in your suitcase. But that excuse doesn't fly for the traveller who got busted at Reagan International Airport in 2011. During a TSA scan of his bags, a book-shaped object revealed a strange anomaly. When his bag was searched, agents found the tome was titled Ninja: The Shadow Warrior. When they opened it up to learn some ninja knowledge, they found that the pages had been hollowed out to create a secret compartment that housed a pair of razor-sharp throwing knives.
7. IED Training Kit
One of the things that TSA agents receive a lot of background on is recognizing improvised explosive devices. So you'd think that one or two of them would be able to recognize a kit for training people to recognize improvised explosive devices? A passenger flying out of Honolulu managed to delay his entire flight because in one of his checked bags was what looked like a nail bomb straight from the streets of Afghanistan. The item was removed, only to reveal that it was a training device used to teach others how to recognize and neutralize IEDs. Looks like it did its job.
8. Weird Watch
With security at high levels, it's not generally a good idea to bring stuff on board that can even be mistaken for explosives. Advertising executive Geoff McGann was flying out of Oakland International Airport in 2012 when security staff took an interest in his funky watch, which featured a prominent dial, decorative fuses and a toggle switch. He claimed it was "art," but McGann's appearance raised a couple other red flags, as he was wearing shoes two sizes too big with a secret compartment in the bottom and also had no carry-on or checked luggage. After five days, charges were dropped against him.
9. Breast Pump
We're not going to get into the scientific benefits of breastfeeding here, but let's just say that new mother Amy Strand believes in it. That's why she wanted to bring her breast pump on board a flight from Hawaii's Lihue Airport to Maui. She was flagged by the TSA after they spotted the pump in her bag and told her that it wasn't allowed on the plane...because the bottles were empty. This is obviously not a security rule, and Strand was humiliatingly made to go to the public bathroom and pump her boobs in front of everybody before being allowed to board. The agency later issued a public apology.
10. Science Project
If there's one thing you can learn from these tales of TSA turbulence, it's that anything even remotely suspicious should be left at home. In 2011, screeners at Eppley Airport in Omaha, Nebraska spotted an odd silhouette inside the bag of a college student heading home to Oregon. Not taking any chances, they not only removed it from the bag but shut down the entire airport for several hours so they could make sure it wasn't an explosive. What was it actually? An entry in annual entry in the American Association of Physics Teachers apparatus competition made from a battery, an Altoids tin and some other detritus.
11. Rocket Launcher
While many of the machines that we've showcased on this list are relatively harmless, we can't say the same about this AT4 rocket launcher that was discovered in a checked bag at Pennsylvania's Arnold Palmer Airport. The AT4 is one of the most popular light antitank weapons in the world, and has seen service in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This particular one was expended, so it didn't have a rocket in it, but TSA agents still flagged it and pulled it off the flight.
[Source: PC Magazine. Edited.]