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December 07, 2006

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True Tales Of Airline Horror, Part I

This happened to a friend of mine whom I will call Ernest because that is not his name. Anyway, Ernest is returning from Edmonton to Austin via Denver, on Air Canada (which is pretty ominous right there), has cleared both U.S. Customs and security in Edmonton, and has upgraded to first class. The doors are about to close when an Air Canada functionary accosts him and asks if he is the gentleman traveling with the firearm. Ernest says yes, he is.

“Well then,” says the AC person, “would you mind giving me the key to your case? It needs ADDITIONAL SCREENING.”

“Why?” asks Ernest. “It’s already been checked twice.”

“I don’t know [Independent research shows that these three words are used more by airline employees than any others] sir, but we can’t take off until the screening is performed.”

Well, now the other passengers are starting to turn and stare, and their expressions are not supportive, so Ernest turns over the key and says can he please get it back before takeoff because it’s the only one he has. Of course, says the AC person, who then departs for who knows where.

And so a few minutes elapse, and the doors close, and the plane backs out of its gate, and there is no AC person and no key. And Ernest is now sweating—pardon the expression—bullets. In fact, he is so unhinged that he asks the flight attendant to speak to the pilot and ask him what the hell, but there is no help on that end, either.

And so they finally land in Austin, and the pilot, to his great credit, accompanies Ernest to the baggage claim to find out what the hell, and before you know it, there is Ernest’s gun case on the conveyor belt with the key taped to the handle in direct violation of every FAA, TSA, or Canadian regulation I’ve ever heard of.

Ernest wants to file a complaint with the FAA, but thinks that a) it wouldn’t do any good; and b) his name would be placed on a watch list. He still has no idea what the ADDITIONAL SCREENING was about, and will never know.



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Ralph the Rifleman

This is another perfect example of "truth" being stranger then "fiction"!


So Ernest is afraid of consequences for doing the right. And the Air Canada functionary isn't afraid of the consequences for doing the wrong thing. Both seem to embrace a lack of accountability.


Ernest should have used a TSA certified lock (All airports have master keys). Unfortunately within the U.S. they sometimes cut the locks up. This is really inconvenient on the beginning of a trip, because you have to buy a new lock before you can fly home. It's better to have your key taped to it then have to buy a new lock, (I have to buy 2-3 every year). I have a lock set on "0000". The TSA guys said that it is easier. Usually guns are inspected twice in the U.S. (at Newark airport).

JA Demko

It is the way of the world that it is better for him to have cooperated. If he hadn't, then he'd have starred in "Ernest Gets Body-Cavity Searched."
I no longer fly if I have any other choice. I'd rather spend a day or two driving and retain my dignity than be subject to the whims of the cretinous TSA's.


At least he got his case and key in the same place. I would carry a spare key from now on and just be thankful it worked out as well as it did.

Mike Diehl

At least a baggage handler didn't swipe his firearm or remove it from the case, drop it a few times, and smear greasy chocolate bar remnants on the action.


Reading the TSA regulations indicates the firearm container is to be locked, and that only the owner of the firearm is to unlock it. If it were my gun, I would have asked to accompany the representative and supervise this mysterious additional screening in person. Of course, I've never had a problem at an airport, so my attitude in this case would probably have been swiftly re-calibrated through the use of handcuffs and chemical repellants.


Like he said, What the hell!


As an interesting aside. If you are a Canadian Citizen (I am) and if you wish to hunt in the U.S. you must first be in posession of a valid Hunting Licence, and then apply for a permit to ATF to be a non - U.S. citizen in posession of a firearm on American soil. If you factor the short time frames from drawing a licence to the time the hunt occurs, this is a serious barrier to Canadian Citizens willing to spend our hunting dollars in states from Alaska to Texas. We are all paying a price in the Post 9-11 reality.

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