October 23, 2011

Flying With An HT

In this day and age of increased airport security and frequently changing TSA rules,  many hams are understandably unsure if they are permitted to travel with their amateur radio transceiver / HT when flying.  We have travelled by air with our trusty Kenwood TH-F6A HT domestically and internationally many times without issue.  However, we did so only after researching the topic thoroughly to avoid problems.  The bottom line is: educate yourself, travel smart, and enjoy travelling with your radio.

There are several considerations regarding travelling with an amateur radio or HT. 

Consideration #1) Follow the FCC part 97.11 rules related to stations aboard aircraft.
Part 97 : Sec. 97.11 Stations aboard ships or aircraft. (a) The installation and operation of an amateur station on a ship or aircraft must be approved by the master of the ship or pilot in command of the aircraft.
(b) The station must be separate from and independent of all other radio apparatus installed on the ship or aircraft, except a common antenna may be shared with a voluntary ship radio installation. The station's transmissions must not cause interference to any other apparatus installed on the ship or aircraft.
(c) The station must not constitute a hazard to the safety of life or property. For a station aboard an aircraft, the apparatus shall not be operated while the aircraft is operating under Instrument Flight Rules, as defined by the FAA, unless the station has been found to comply with all applicable FAA Rules.

Consideration #2) Carry on versus checking.
  • Common wisdom is that it is safer for your HT to travel with you in your carry-on bag.
  • Checking your HT brings with it a risk of physical damage from rough handling or possibly theft.
  • Some hams disconnect their HT's antenna as a precaution against breaking off the sometimes-fragile connector.  SMA connectors are notoriously fragile.
  • The TSA's website offers guidance regarding safe travel with devices having batteries.
    • "Keep batteries and equipment with you, or in carry-on baggage - not in your checked baggage! In the cabin, flight crew can better monitor conditions, and have access to the batteries or device if a fire does occur."
Consideration #3) Use of HT while on board the aircraft.
  • Common sense is simple - keep your HT powered off while on board an aircraft.
  • Generally, airlines prohibit turning on radios (i.e. radios are not approved electronic device).
  • Consult with FCC part 97.11 rules.
  • Consult with FAA part 91.21 rules.
Sec. 91.21 Portable electronic devices
(a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, no person may operate, nor may any operator or pilot in command of an aircraft allow the operation of, any portable electronic device on any of the following U.S.-registered civil aircraft:
(1) Aircraft operated by a holder of an air carrier operating certificate or an operating certificate; or
(2) Any other aircraft while it is operated under IFR.
(b) Paragraph (a) of this section does not apply to--
(1) Portable voice recorders;
(2) Hearing aids;
(3) Heart pacemakers;
(4) Electric shavers; or
(5) Any other portable electronic device that the operator of the aircraft has determined will not cause interference with the navigation or communication system of the aircraft on which it is to be used.
(c) In the case of an aircraft operated by a holder of an air carrier operating certificate or an operating certificate, the determination required by paragraph (b)(5) of this section shall be made by that operator of the aircraft on which the particular device is to be used. In the case of other aircraft, the determination may be made by the pilot in command or other operator of the aircraft.

Consideration #4) Documentation.
  • When travelling domestically, you may not need to carry your FCC license.  However, it certainly wouldn't hurt to bring it with you and it may actually help if you find yourself trying to explain your HT to airline or TSA personnel.
  • When travelling internationally, bringing your FCC license is both prudent and often necessary per the laws of many countries.
  • It is important to consult with the laws of the countries you intend to travel through.
  • In certain parts of the world, it is possible to be challenged when crossing borders regarding your ownership or place of purchase of an expensive piece of equipment (like a radio).  In these circumstances it is valuable to have a copy of your receipt.  This will help you prove you own the item and that you purchased in your home country.
Consideration #5) Is it worth the bother to bring an HT on a trip?
  • In our opinion, travelling with an HT is very enjoyable to travel with and definitely worth bringing.
  • It is fun to work local repeaters and make contacts with an HT.
  • It is fun to listen to local broadcast radio if your HT includes a wide band receiver.
  • It is fun to travel with other hams who also have their HT's and stay in contact while in your destination.
  • It is fun to use APRS to report your position and other information while travelling.
We hope you find this article an informative and helpful guide on how to educate yourself to make your own decision on travelling with an amateur radio transceiver or HT.  As we write this article we are enjoying listening to a lively discussion on a 2m net via our HT while on a trip.  Having travelled extensively with our HT, our motto is, "don't leave home without it".

Happy Trails and 73,


Related articles on NJ2X.com:

Be sure to check out the NJ2X.com Kindle edition. 

© Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.