There’s a common notion that fountain pens are prohibited from being brought on a flight. However, these items are generally safe to carry on aircraft, though they have a tendency to leak and explode as the pressure changes upon taking off and while flying at high altitude.
This tendency is the reason people often ask: why are fountain pens not allowed in airplanes?
While that might be logical, it’s still speculative. Keep reading and learn more about fountain pen guidelines when flying.
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Why Can’t You Bring Fountain Pens on Planes?
First, let’s be clear. Fountain pens and pens in general are not restricted on airlines. Technically, there’s no particular international aviation regulation that bans bringing a fountain pen on an airplane.
According to the TSA (Transportation Security Administration), pens are allowed both on carry-on and checked bags.
Nonetheless, under some circumstances and scenarios, a fountain pen could still be banned or confiscated. Here are the important facts that you need to know if you plan to fly with a fountain pen.
1. Pointed Tips and Tactical Pens
Fountain pens can have pointed tips, but they’re not really considered tactical. A tactical pen is something that can be maneuvered and used as a weapon, and it usually has very sharp tips that can puncture skin.
So, it’s unlikely your fountain pen will be confiscated during security checks.
However, there are fountain pens designed as tactical pens, which are primarily made for self-defense or emergencies.
They could look like regular pens but with a solid build and sleeker design. The pens can write and often have added features like a glass breaker, whistle, match storage, flashlight, compass, handcuff keys, and more.
Similar to other tactical tools and equipment, any type of tactical pens is strictly prohibited on carry-on bags. Keep in mind that securities and the TSA are stern about this.
TSA allows tactical pens only on checked bags. So, you can have it packed safely in your check-in luggage instead.
2. Pen Leaking and Explosion
Fountain pen leaking on board could be a risk, but that is more on the personal level and does not necessarily affect the plane and passenger’s overall safety.
What could make a pen explode or leak? Pens can be sensitive to sudden changes in temperature, pressure, and other external forces.
In this case, the pressure changes that we experience in flight are the main culprit, especially when the fountain pen is halfway filled.
The fountain pen ink is in liquid form. It could expand through the void space in the reservoir and form air bubbles, which push the ink out of the nib. If the reservoir could not hold that pressure anymore, then an explosion could happen.
Although a fountain pen can leak on planes, you can always mitigate and prevent it from happening with these simple tips and tricks.
Tips for Flying With Fountain Pens
- To totally eliminate the risk of ink leaking, empty your fountain pens before packing them. Have your ink bottles or refills securely packed in your check-in bags.
- If you wish to write on board without a problem, do it when the plane is already stable up in the air. Avoid writing during take-off.
- Always make sure that your fountain pen is filled with ink at a maximum level. That way, the ink in the reservoir has no room for expansion.
- If it has ink, keep your fountain pen in a tip-up position. With the aid of gravity, it can help keep the ink settled at the bottom.
- For added protection, keep your fountain pen and ink inside zip-lock bags to make sure your tools are safe in case of leaking.
So, why are fountain pens not allowed in airplanes? It can be restricted for the following reasons:
- It’s a tactical fountain pen.
- It has a pointed tip, and TSO finds it a threat to safety.
However, you can still carry them in your checked bags. Although fountain pens can leak and explode while on board, they’re not considered a major hazard that needs to be prohibited.
You can still bring a fountain pen on a plane safely with some precautions, such as keeping them:
- Empty or fully loaded with ink
- Sealed inside ziplock bags
- In a tip-up position
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