When I was just starting to skydive, I used to jump every weekend at the same drop zone. I already knew all the skydivers, how they jump, and I was very comfortable with the landing area, rental gear, instructors, manifest, and so on. Eventually, I decided that would be cool to skydive in different places – and that’s when lots of questions came up about how to travel with my skydiving gear.
“Skydiving rigs with and without Automatic Activation Devices (AAD) are permitted as a carry-on or as checked luggage. It’s advised to add at least 45 minutes to the airline’s recommended arrival window when traveling with their parachute. Pack the rig separately without any other items in the bag”. Cypress
A significant thing to think about before going to a new skydiving center is to reinforce your knowledge about the sport. There is an excellent article about skydiving frequency vs. fear that can help you to understand how important it is to jump frequently for safety reasons. Remember that we can be comfortable skydiving at one drop zone, but that can change when we arrive at a new place, with a distinct landing pattern, and with different people.
If you want to share with an article your experience in a new drop zone, click here.
The first time I decided to travel with skydiving gear on an airplane, I was quite nervous because of the security. I didn’t have as much information and experience as I do today. So, I’m going to lay it out for you so that you have an easier time when you start to travel with gear.
Besides the airline ticket, ID, passport and so on, skydivers must have the following documents to have a smooth trip with their equipment:
- X-Ray AAD Card.
- A printed copy of “What Can I Bring” from the TSA website.
This is a card for Airport Security that shows the X-ray of the unit and informs them that these are allowed as carry on items. Available from respective manufacturers.
Checking the parachute as luggage
I usually put my rig in my luggage without anything else. Sometimes I put my helmet and jumpsuit with it. Remember that anything that looks suspicious will increase the likelihood of having your luggage opened and inspected by a TSA officer.
The AAD card is always with my rig. On it, there is a very clear explanation of what is inside of the rig and how it works. I always leave my AAD card on top of my rig. If they decide to open my bag, the AAD card is the first thing they will see.
In the USA and Europe, airline staff is more accustomed to people traveling with skydiving gear. However, in a few other countries, I wouldn’t recommend checking your skydiving gear in as luggage.
Remember: security will not open your parachute without you present. They will call you to provide assistance. If they check your luggage and decide they need to open your parachute, it will usually happen within 45 minutes (depending on the size of the airport). Pay attention to the airport announcements and be close to the check-in counter during this period, just in case.
If they don’t find you to assist unpacking and repacking the parachute, they will not transport the parachute on the flight. If you find yourself in this position, the airline will probably allow you to gate-check the parachute– another excellent reason to have a rig bag.
I’ve personally never had any issue with my parachute. Lucky or not, the reality is that it can happen, so be aware of your obligations and give them the required attention.
Carrying the parachute on the airplane
When I carry my gear with me, I put it straight on my back. A few friends use a skydive gear backpack to protect the rig. It doesn’t matter to security which you use. However, when going through the security inspection point, leave your gear separated from everything else. No matter what, as the USPA recommends, don’t make any comments you think are funny or clever about your rig, and use the chest strap or pull-up cord to tie the reserve handle to the main lift web. Using zip ties is not recommended because of the risk that you might forget they are on there and discover during a jump that you are unable to pull the handle.
If further inspection is necessary, the officer will ask who is the owner of the equipment and will ask you for assistance. Please remember to ask them not to touch the emergency handles.
In the USA or Europe, security is aware of skydiving gear. However, if there is any problem during the inspection, ask for their supervisor to come to inspect the equipment. They have more extensive training and have learned about skydiving gear, so the chance they will let you go is higher.
If the gear needs to be unpacked, you will be able to assist. Please ask for space where you can open it and repack afterward.
How to avoid rig swabs scanning dirty (for explosives)
I read in another skydiving blog that the best way to keep your rig clean is avoiding:
- Washing your hands and touching your rig before the security inspection point.
- Using hand sanitizer and touching your rig before the security inspection point.
Soap and sanitizer both contain glycerin and can corrupt the results. If that happens, keep calm and ask the TSA officer for them to redo the test. According to USPA, anyone who has recently walked a golf course shot off fireworks or firearms, or applied hand lotion before packing their rig may trigger a trace detection machine. Consider all of these things before packing your rig.
If the agent keeps finding the same results, your gear (main and reserve canopies) will need to be opened, which will be a considerable inconvenience.
In the very unlikely event that you have a problem with a TSA screener, you should request a supervisor. You can calmly require that the supervisor review “The Parachute Screening section of the Screening Checkpoint Standard Operating Procedure.” This should clear up any issues you may be having.
When I stopped renting gear at my skydiving center and bought my own equipment, I started traveling with my skydiving gear to my home drop zone every weekend. Before I got a locker there, I used to take everything with me, and if you don’t want to drive back home or buy something you already have, it’s handy to make a checklist.
Even though road trips are easier than getting on an airplane, we need to make sure we have everything we need, we need to make sure our AAD – Automatic Activation Device – is turned off and that our gear is safe and will not move around during our commute to the skydiving center. I usually put all my gear in the trunk, including my parachute.
Skydiving travel tips
- Don’t leave your skydiving gear in the sun
- Don’t leave any equipment or personal items behind
- Carry Insurance
- Don’t get mad at the TSA Agent
- Keep calm and be informative
- Don’t make any unnecessary comments or jokes about gear
I got to my destination
Just because you arrived at your destination, that doesn’t mean you can just turn on your AAD and jump. Remember, people you don’t know might have handled your skydiving gear and equipment. You will need to recheck to see if recheck to see if everything is ok and 100% ready to go. If you need help or have any doubt about it, ask for an experienced skydiver to help you out.
Traveling with skydiving gear can be intimidating at first, but don’t let it stop you from taking your rig to incredible places. I hope this information helps you travel with skydiving gear because it is worth the trouble.
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