BATTERIES, TRAVEL, and the TSA

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BATTERIES, AIRLINE TRAVEL AND THE TSA 
This section is my devotion to public service for educational purposes and it explains about batteries, their uses in our disposable society, safe transportation and is designed to make you aware of their dangers and pitfalls. The information comes from varying sources, the largest collection from many decades of personal witness, usage and some shocking experiences. 

Since many travel with my battery packs, the subject of air travel is the most common question I get.   Thus I will address the TSA first.  Lots of frequently asked questions and answers with additional information follows.   Being in the battery business, I will integrate some personal experiences with the information to add “some color” to what is usually very boring technical writing about a subject no one seems to be enamored with.  Enjoy.


DUAL THREAT EMPLOYEES

Let’s put the problem into correct perspective.  911 proved what we knew all along, people want to hurt us and we have to enforce protection where it belongs.   Beheadings, bombings, torture, ISIS, attacks on the freedom loving countries of the world, cold blooded murder all in the name of a false corruption of a gentle religion has raised our awareness to incredible levels.  I call this the international threat.  

But new technology like Lithium-Ion batteries creates a whole new gaggle of problems that have to be addressed. On both fronts it is the responsibility of the TSA and the FAA to protect us both from terrorists both domestic and foreign in addition to irresponsibles who don’t follow the rules.  It’s a two headed snake. I call this the domestic threat. 

TESTING PROVED FAULTS IN THE SYSTEM
Recently they have discovered through testing, faults in the system ranging from a 90% failure rate in the detection of hidden guns and dummy explosives  disguised and tucked away making it through.   In addition an incident, and very embarrassing occurred when two agents mis-using the x-ray equipment in a vulgar suggestive way and so forth, and retribution was short and swift. 

The majority of the TSA are really nice people, I have never been mistreated or mis-spoken to.  I get along great with them, I just follow the rules and pay attention. They are just doing their job as instructed but sometimes…they misinterpret.  They do however need to smile more and simple words like, “Thank you, have a great flight” might improve their image. Get rid of the stone faces and negative looks.  

The two nicest countries I traveled to:  Australia and Israel.  Both use profiling.  In Aussie land, the customs gal asked me if I was bringing any snakes or spiders into the country?  I replied, “ I’m not crazy, I understand you have eleven of the most dangerous in the world”. She laughed.  Same in Israel, an off the cuff question looking for a reaction, part of the program. Don’t doubt they knew more about me than me.  With a Rabbi in the family, I wanted to see my roots and secure a Israeli passport if things got bad over there.  I answered honestly and told me I would have a safe wonderful time.

2200 GUNS and BLASTING CAPS CONFISCATED IN 2014
The Transportation Security Administration found more than 2,200 guns in airport carry-on bags in 2014. For context, that’s almost 400 more guns found in 2013, and more than three times the number found in 2005 and over 80 percent of those guns were loaded, and todays best find at the TSA, other than the six guns they confiscated this day, are the blasting caps shown to the right which were then removed from a passenger in Redmond, Oregon,  blasting caps, just add a 9 volt battery, an accelerant like a bottle of booze and you have disaster.


THE SAGA
CONTINUES  

Now I have for quite a while a secured TSA global frequent flyer number, a Military Identification for my base, my 50 year old military Nuclear Q Clearance, from the  Premier Nikita Khruschev days, State and Local endorsed pistol concealed carry permits.

For identification, I am a Certified Weapons trainer, Range Officer Certified, and Instructor, carrying my Pilots license and Pilot Medical Certificate.  And I still get selected for additional checking.  I owned my own airplanes, and most important, I have a Official Captain Midnight Gold Secret Decoder ring and ID card issued personally by Captain Midnight. 

They still made me go through the whole drill after the Tampa branch TSA must have had a bad review, last month that  hit the papers and TV.   The X-ray revealed I had a secretive device on me.  

Yes, I did , a 1/2 Oz. 100 dollar ( not cheap by no means) plastic bottle of prescription with label eye drops buried in my jacket.  I calmly asked if they could forward the X-Rays to my doctor and save my medical insurance some money since they took more pictures than he does.   I offered to put two drops in my eyes to prove the medication was harmless.

The agent laughed and was polite. I commented how precise the system is as it could see the plastic bottle smaller than a shot glass.  YUP! Fortunately I had a second copy of the script from my eye doctor on my smart phone.


DRESS FOR SUCCESS
BETTER IDEA
Now my  usual travel apparel is shown in the picture. Maybe thats what triggers the inspection, how I appeared to them.  Tampa ate me up every time even with TSA pass,  and enough aforementioned ID to walk through the Whitehouse.

After casually calling ahead and meeting with a supervisor, showing credentials, she explained they are tested all the time and she hinted my look (see photo) was a trigger.  I am deplaning here in Newark, NJ.  My brother and friends decided to make a photo shoot of my arrival, as a gag, and all I heard from strangers was “ ho is he". Only God knows what story they made up.

My next trip was Vegas. I dumped the photo jacket, too many useless pockets, more nuisance than usage,  traded my Hi-Altitude Black Lenses Ray-Bans for something studious or nerdish, 16 dollars at the mall and  switched to a short sleeve golf shirt in neutral grey from one of my charities I support.  The Maxpedition was changed to a Swiss Gear small backpack.

I WENT THROUGH THE LINE IN FIVE MINUTES, NEVER EVEN GOT STOPPED 
Next trip to Vegas, same thing, five minutes, didn’t get the random check excuse coming or going and something can be said about first impressions and profiling.  I really think the trigger was “They knew they were getting random examined and I looked the examiner part”.


TRAVEL IS SOMETIMES ANNOYING

MY PET PEEVES AND ANNOYANCES

👺   LUGGAGE LOCK  LOTTERY  -  TSA-5, ME-0  -  I had checked my luggage since it had some of the displays from my company and securely locked it with an approved TSA lock I bought that swore on Amazon the TSA had keys and could they could open it.  

Past experience told me I would never see this lock again.  On four previous occasions I never saw my locks again.  Complaints were useless.  So I have a new process based on the fact I lost five in two years. 

DEAR TSA - Please get some additional keys and return the locks back to the consumers as they are not yours. Never again will I succumb to the TSA lock scandal since fingernail clippers are legal now.  

According to records, no cases recorded of an Airbus 320 being brought down by fingernail clippers severing control cables.  So I have twenty or so small plastic wire-ties and the fingernail clippers in a pint size Ziplock in an outside pocket, so I can clip the zipper ends together as soon as I recover my luggage for transit to my accommodations or hotel.

👺   UNCONTROLLED CHILDREN -    The darling little girl about ten who screamed, screamed more, and again and again screamed till we got a game on the backseat console she could play.  That lasted about ten minutes.  All the way to LAX,  5 hours of screaming prompted me to want to stuff her in the bin.  Five hours of uncontrolled shrill sounds and her grandma didn’t know what to do.  Sometimes children do not know how to clear their ears and this causes pain, usually at landing, so that was not the case, she was bored. 

My solution was to give up my OREO cookies I had sneaked on board.  It was quiet for an hour.  Maybe the kid would OD on Oreos high sugar and take a nap.  

It backfired and got worse.  I tried reading to her, that failed.  I shoved toilet paper in my ears, put my big headset on and had a stiff drink, given freely by the stewardess for my efforts to quiet here.

 I was wondering how this kid would grow up...   Hannah Montana to Miley the twerker.

👺    BIN BASTARDS -   On my last trip in 2016 to Vegas we got out about 20 minutes late after all the fighting over the bins, oversized bags and some of their bags that had to be over the weight limit.  I had to help three women who couldn’t even lift theirs and one bag took two of us (men) to dump in the bin.  Why would the prostitutes ( based on dress and flirtatious demeanor) working a weekend in Vegas with most of their clothes off need all that luggage?  Inquiring minds want to know.

It’s the airlines fault, forcing high fees to handle baggage only makes the job harder for the crew and the passengers not to mention passenger safety in case of an incident.  Think, what happens during an accident or incident.  One hundred sixty to one hundred eighty passengers times a modest thirty pound bag equals two and half tons of packed luggage. Do the math 4800-5400 pounds of dead weight hanging over your head, and a mess if a forced evacuation occurs, its just the pilot in me.

Lets get real, if the airlines just added fifteen dollars a ticket, and include the baggage handling, it would work as it really balances out.  Faster loading times, less confusion, the revenue will pay for the extra baggage handlers (creating jobs) and everybody gets treated equally. 

Let’s be honest, nobody is their best self when trying to muscle an overstuffed rolling bag down a narrow aisle and then up into an overhead bin that’s exactly, precisely, slightly too small for it. Well, you don’t have to worry about that anymore! Because starting in late 2017, early 2018 United Airlines is taking away your right to put a bag in the overhead altogether.

It’s a new ticket option that, as United representatives will rush to say, will only apply to customers who purchase a new, bare-bones fare.  Bare bones means: It costs less than today’s baseline economy, you don’t get access to an overhead bin, and you don’t get a seat assignment until the day you take off.  In a spin worthy of a Heisman trophy, the airline calls this option “Basic Economy.” We would also accept “Crap in Your Lap,”.   Thus the Hienni-man" trophy would be more appropriate

You’re enraged, OK, we get it. So just swear off United, right?  Fly American, or Delta, or any other airline instead. (Or cough up the actual money for the amenities you want.) Oh, and avoid Spirit, if you don’t already: The budget carrier started charging $30 for overhead space in 2010.

The bag you refuse to check because it means forking over another 25 bucks and waiting at the carousel and risking seeing it lost or mangled by some gorilla of a baggage handler. The sooner you're crammed into that metal tube, the better your chance of cramming your wheeled armoire into that tiny space the airline industry allots over your head.

That could change with the new "space bins" that Boeing's adding to the 737. They'll hold 50 percent more bags than the current design, which means you won't have to worry about that idiot in 17D crushing your bag with the over-stuffed rollerboard he really should have checked. The key, says Boeing engineer Derek Minyard, was making the bin big enough to insert a bag in on its side rather than its back.  But size becomes a critical element and carry on will a) be charged for and b) strictly enforced. 

Boeing also moved the lower edge of the bin down 2 inches, making it easier to reach. It tweaked the balance, making the whole thing easier to to shut, so the "close assist" mechanism—which adds weight, which airlines hate—is now unnecessary.


👺    PETS AND FAKE SERVICE DOGS -   And my pet gripe lately of many gripes I write about, illegal service dogs with fake ID’s called “ Companion Animal”  with the fake documentation readily and easily available.  You can get the fake coats and letters on the web.  Folks think they can get away with anything and a free ride for Snookums is worth attempting.  If you want to really see how this scam with fake service animals works check here.   http://servicedogcentral.org/content/fake-service-dog-credentials.   SERVICE DOGS

👺    RECLINING SEATS -   Our latest mess is the reclining seat back and some inconsiderate bastards who should have been thrown off the plane. My knees have been whacked more than a few times.  That in reality is not their fault, inconsideration is their fault.  However it is the direct fault of the airlines crushing as many seats into the rails in economy as possible, that is the real fault.  

More seats are more money and follow the money, it’s always about money.   Allegiant air solved the problem, they disconnected and (bolted) secured the seats not to recline.  Great idea.  Their fares are cheaper and people will suffer for a few hours, proven by heavy bookings, and the most profitable airline numbers in the US.  

You won’t find a good Montebello Pinot Noire (means Black Grape) or Foie Gras (Duck Liver Pate) , nothing, but you’ll get a lesser fare,  like peanuts for four dollars.  And the highest rate in the industry for problematic aircraft.  They are supposedly getting new Airbus 319 or 320s to replace aging DC-88’s, finally.

10-19-2015 -   A Southwest Airlines jetliner returned to the gate at Los Angeles International Airport on Sunday after one passenger choked another during an argument over a reclined seat, witnesses told NBC News.  Airport police said San Francisco-bound Flight 2010 left the gate around 10:25 p.m. Sunday and returned half an hour later.