LF film through airport

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Well, I'm making my way from stupid questions to more intelligent questions .

I've traveled with a lot of 35mm equipment and film, and in fact I bought a camera bag that lets me take the film pouch easilly for airport hand inspection. I'm getting ready for a trip with the 4x5, and some questions about how aiport security will handle film inspection have occured to me.

I know that the FAA gives me the right to request hand inspection of film. So far, so good. Inspecting a 35mm cassette is fiarly straightforward: looks like film, weighs about what film should weigh, and you're on your way. What about a box of 4x5, though? Essentially it can't really be inspected, except by competent personnel in a completely dark darkroom. So what happens when I hand them 5 or so boxes of LF film and tell them that they can't be opened? Do they arrest me on the spot? I've had airport security take my 35mm film pouch and put it on the conveyer to the scanner, from which I've had to rescue it, and then tell me that I'm be arrested unless it went through (I explained to them that they were wrong, and that if I was unlawfully arrested they'd be working for me for the rest of their lives).

I've contacted the airline, the airport, and the FAA about this. The FAA has directed me to the airline and the airport. The airline and the airport have both told me "get there early" which to me really doesn't address the basic issue that the film cannot be inspected in any menaingful way.

Any ideas? Any experience?

Thanks David Gardner

-- David Gardner (dgardner@msxi.com), June 08, 2001



Not a problem. I keep a single sheet of film handy and show it to them. I've never had a problem, but then I've always allowed time and was courteous.

Regards, Pete

-- Pete Caluori (pclauori@hotmail.com), June 08, 2001.

In the US, I have not had any problem getting hand inspections of LF film in boxes with the original labels...always using old film boxes to hold exposed film. They usually just "sniff" it with the cloth patch on the wand that they then put into some kind of other machine. In France and the UK, I have NEVER had any luck getting a hand inspection of any kind of film. Even claiming to be of the royal family does not help, for any kind of film. It is also fair to say that I have never had film damaged by carry-on xray either. Since the effect is cumulative, I do make sure I don't take the same film on another international trip if it's already been xrayed. Never put it in checked baggage. The xray machines used for that are MUCH stronger.John

-- John Sarsgard (sarsgard@yahoo.com), June 08, 2001.

My experiences parallel those above.

I've done it both ways - holders loaded and empty, boxes opened and unopened. It's easier to go with empty holders and an unopened box, but it's not impossible to go with loaded holders and an opened box. Coming back, unless you can process on the road, you'll have exposed film anyway.

Be polite, dress well, show up well in advance and try to time your pass through security when the crowds are at a minimum. Hard to do this time of year! It helps to have at least one empty holder, an exposed and processed negative, and a sacrificial unexposed negative to demonstrate if necessary. Different airports, different personel, you'll get different results. You might get different results at the same airport on the same day!

Overseas, don't even think about it. Buy your film there, try to have it shipped (no guarantee it's not X-rayed then either though) or just pass it through. Even then, expect to have to explain things. Every time I pass a camera through, I know I will have to open the case and show what it is.

I have traveled with loaded holders from O'Hare to Newark to Orly to Tunis to Rome to Florence and back the same route and could not detect any damage to the Velvia, 64T, or HP5+ I passed through. I didn't submit any of it to a lab for examination though either.

Don't forget - you and your film are getting bombarded with radiation on the plane anyway.



-- Sean yates (coalandice@yahoo.com), June 09, 2001.

I used to fly internationally all the time w/ 4x5 film loaded in both holders and quickloads. I keep the holders in ziplock bags, exposed quickloads and rollfilm in a lead bag, and unexposed QL's in their original boxes/foil pouches. Just ask the inspector to handcheck the film nicely. These days, they will generally run a chemical explosive swab on each film cassette and in the QL foil pouch. Overseas, I've been given handchecks in Tokyo (no problem), Bangkok, and Hong Kong. In Seoul, they X-ray everthing (even arriving bags!). In W. Europe, I've never been given a handcheck when requested, but again, my film has never been ruined, either. At Heathrow, don't even bother asking for a handcheck; you won't get it. The lead bag should reduce the penetration. The German airport officials tend to look at my tripod and photobag w/ lenses/camera very closely (long exposure in the machine), so put the film in last or first.

-- James Chow (dr_jchow@yahoo.com), June 09, 2001.

there isn't enough metal in film to set off the detector that you walk through, even if you are carrying hundereds of sheets. So I where a jacket with some large pockets, and some cargo pants and fill up my pockets. Using 25 sheet boxes I can carry 6-8 boxes with out it looking like anything at all. once you get through you can unload into your carry on to make sitting more comfortable.


-- doug (dmcgoldrick@usa.net), June 09, 2001.

I agree with the last post! I carry six 25-sheet boxes at a time in my Gortex rain parka which has 5 big pockets. It is a loose garment and there is no indication that I am carrying anything. I walk right through the metal detectors and not a beep occurs. I carry both exposed 4x5 and new unopened boxes this way. Just make sure you don't have anything else metal on you so you don't get stopped and they start fussing with your coat. That is, put your keys, glasses, belt buckles etc. in the little dish they give you before they let you pass throught the metal detector....


-- Scott Jones (scottsdesk@home.com), June 09, 2001.

I travel with Fuji Quickloads exclusively - this is easier (you can open the box and show the envelopes) and more difficult (due to the tin latch, you can't take them through the metal scanner).
My experience is only with german and U.S. airports: in the U.S., no problem at all (officers were very polite). In Germany, you usually get raise eyebrowes and gripes, but if you insist they will check the film with a chemical sensor (but be prepared to invest some 15 minutes for this procedure).
However, I have to unpack my LF gear completely every time when passing german security checks, no matter how long they X-ray it - this can be quite nerving when the flight schedule is tight...

-- Stefan Dalibor (dalibor@cs.fau.de), June 10, 2001.

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