Airport security

Now, righly or wrongly, up until now on the few occasions I’ve been through airport security with my 817, ive left the stock rechargeable batteries in. This was in the belief that if there was any doubt that it wasn’t a ‘real radio’ but something more sinister, it could be turned on, after being left tuned to bbc r2 or some similar strong station to show it working.
I’ve never had any issues with that, bemused expressions from operators of the X rays, and irate glares from fellow travellers when they get held up for an extra 2 minutes while everything gets swabbed :smile:

That is, until this weekend, when passing through security at a major middle eastern airport (you probably know the one) I very nearly had the 817 seized :frowning:

Apparently ‘walkie talkies’ are prohibited in hand luggage (*), and an 817 that powers up, with its 2m rubber ducky and microphone just in the same bag was deemed a 'walkie talkie’
Girlie on the xray called the boss fella over and he appeared adamant that it should be handed over :frowning:

After a couple of minutes of ‘discussion’ on the subject, and not wishing to end up in some middle eastern jail or other I popped off the battery cover, unplugged the battery and handed it to him. Asking if he agreed that it was now not a ‘walkie talkie’ but just a box of non functioning electronics he agreed, told me it was now ok to take,and let me on my way (thankfully).
I had the exact same response from another security barrier, just before the gate (I told him he was too late as his mate in the next building had already taken the battery, rendering it useless as it was!

This was the only ‘issue’ i had going through some 6 or so security checks. Nobody seemed to bat an eyelid at the lifepro4 battery (As an aside, this second bunch of security checks, being between duty free and the aircraft were doing their best to enforce the ‘no bottles of liquid over 100ml’ rule, much the the annoyance of many!!!)

(*) “walkie talkies” are shown on a list of ‘banned items’ in hand luggage along with ‘cables’ ànd ‘wires’ but of course this is only evident AFTER the items have gone through the scanner and have been picked up.

The obvious next question is… since I have to go through the same way in a few weeks, do I trust outting the rig in checked baggage?


Here is my best offer for any one coming to vk5 let me know and I will lend you some kit if you want to do some SOTA while you are visiting. You never know it may take off as a way around security if others did the same in other places.
Ian vk5cz …

You had a problem with an official in a Middle Eastern country acting in his official capacity? I think your mistake is failing to pay the bribe the man was expecting.

Try that in Dubai and you might not be out of prison before the end of the holiday! :smile:

This is almost certainly a local policy - like not being able to use a phone while traversing customs. IATA and the airlines don’t ban radio transmitters from aircraft (otherwise the laptops and phones wouldn’t be allowed and all those cashed up business fliers will complain).

As a similar example, I can travel to Hong Kong or Beijing with a radio (the airlines don’t care), but I won’t get it into the country without an import permit and a large wad of cash (not a bribe, Andy! :slight_smile: .

As I plan to stopover at Dubai in a few months, what is the collective wisdom re my ft817 and either a lipo or a LIFEPO battery. I was contemplating installing the internal lipo kit as suggested by Ed dd5lp to remove the appearance of the much larger 4200 mah lifepo4 battery.

But can anyone advise (from experience rather than theory) whether I should try to get the airline to care for it or find a locker, or what?

Other parts of the SOTA kit (pole, antenna wire, feedline) are planned to be carried in checked luggage - tell me if that’s not a good idea.

Airlines are Qantas and Emirates.


Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH

Hi Andrew and all

I flew through Dubai last July with Emirates with the FT-817 and external battery Debden Tracer 10Ah. I did get pulled aside and 2 security ladies in black attire asked whats this pointing to the FT-817 I told them Amateur radio, then pointed at the battery and asked what’s this. I said it was a battery and she asked whats the battery for and I said power the radio and she just said something to her friend in Arabic (I’m sure it was something like d***head in Arabic, not that my Arabic is very good :grinning: ) and walked off so I picked up my bag and continued on my merry way. I had no issues on the way back at all. Sounds like they keep changing the goalposts or its just whomever you deal with on the day. I was more concerned about the battery than any problems with the radio.

I did have the internal battery fitted and from memory all the cables etc in that same bag.

Good luck.

John VK6NU

Andrew, Don’s incident is the first I’ve heard of recently where they didn’t like the radio as opposed to anything else.

In 2015 I made a total of 13 flights and 12 security clearances throughout Europe. I flew 12hrs after the attacks in Paris and expected a nightmare at the airport but it was just a normal day. My normal course of action is to offload as much as possible to checked luggage, So that means poles, antennas, cables, mic, morse key etc. In my carry on luggage I will have a shedload of electronics. If it’s a business trip that I am piggybacking onto I will have my laptop + charger + mouse + ethernet cable+many usb cables. That is left at home for non-business trips. I’ll also have a tablet, USB charger and USB phone battery. All of that stuff is common and is seen 1000’s of times per hour. Finally I have the 817 + rubber duck + LiPOs. The 817 has an internal NiCd and the LiPO are in bags marked “LiPO Fire Safe”.

For paper work, tickets + airline hazards items list + CEPT + radio licence. The aircraft hazard items list normally has a section on LiPo and I have that bit printed a few times. I can demonstrate the 817 is a radio as it is left tuned to a local FM broadcast station. Attach aerial, hit power, out comes local station.

In all those trips I’ve been singled out 3 times. On 2 occasions they swabbed the 817 and that was that. On one the (pretty) young lady in Edinburgh took a dislike to my LiPos. Despite being correctly packed and following the airline’s rules she moaned on. Providing the sheet with what to do flummoxed her a little and she immediately backed down. Making a fuss of batteries is understandable as Lithium is a danger. But on an A380 there could be 500 people with a total of 500 mobile phones and maybe 400 laptops or tablets and they don’t bat an eyelid to that.

I’m now thinking to fit the 817 disposable battery box and to fill it with batteries from the local Pound Shop (10 rubbishy AA batteries for £1). That would allow the radio to be demoed working and you can sacrifice the cells for no great cost.

I spoke to the security guys in Dublin as they were going for a tea break after screening me and asked about how to get all the electronics through security with the least hassle. One was open and said I passed all the tests but was picked at random by the computer for more screening. His final words were “if you don’t want to be stopped don’t fly, that’s the only way.”

That’s the issue… there are rules and there is local application of the rules.

Andy and John,

Thanks for those comments, The idea of setting it on a local FM broadcast station is a good one. The goal is to alleviate any concerns.

I understand the points about what goes into checked baggage etc. what I’m interested in is how best to get my 817 through the Dubai process - we have an “external hotel” stopover at a local hotel one way and an airline provided internal stopover on the way back.

I read a recommendation not to try to take a radio into Dubai so my question is what do you do with something like a radio that you need at each end of the trip - apart from posting it forward?

Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH

Likewise. My point is there are some places (particularly Asia) where the local rules are obtuse and make little sense, and/or you don’t see it until it’s too late. I used HK and Beijing as two examples because I have seen some funny stuff there. HK is fairly straight - it’s my preferred transit airport - but if you have to enter HK itself, it can get a bit funky. I got pulled aside after collecting bags and clearing customs one time in HK. Completely random screening, but they basically stripped my suitcase and work bag clean, and I was pleased I packed a spare pair of underwear that day. I didn’t have my amateur license at that point.

In most countries, customs say “no phones in the customs hall” but I’ve never seen it policed. In Beijing, I saw an Aussie businessman frogmarched by two border guards as he phoned his wife on the wrong side of the “no phones” sign. Much gesticulating and pointing at the sign and then carrying him off when he didn’t immediately comply. In Seoul, one local was chatting on his phone while having his passport processed by the immigration dude: not an eyelid batted.

Sounds like my year - I bet our wives could complain about us for hours as they compared notes.

I won’t disagree there. cf. my experience with 8-watt-watt dude in Johannesburg last year. I’ve also noticed an increase in scrutiny in VK on Li batteries in the wake of the hoverboard disasters.

My radio gear (including installed batteries where appropriate) travel in my checked baggage however LIPO / LIfePO batteries MUST travel in the carry on baggage (with terminals taped up).


Hi Andrew(s)
This was in that very airport :frowning: And it was ‘transit’ situation too (2 1/2 hours between flights with Emirates)
It was also the only place they didn’t feel the need to swab the radio.

I always put the 817 + internal NiMh in the checked-in luggage when I fly, isn’t that the least hassle way ? It’s in a padded photo-bag together with the tuner, wire antenna, power supply etc, and with my first-class operator license. I also have my second-class license in the carry-on bag, in case I need to justify something quickly and I don’t have access to the checked-in luggage. (Yes, in Romania when you upgrade class they don’t cancel the lower-class license).

Airport security isn’t uniform or consistent even at the same airport. The people can make a big difference as can whatever is the flavour of the month in security.

The only query I’ve had re radios concerned a small multiband rx I used for listening to radio Australia when away. The problem was I’d left the batteries inside it. It was my flight home from Jakarta so no clean undies in the case. Batteries removed, all OK. At that time small radios were apparently the means of getting bombs on board - that came out later in the press.

I was once dressed down for having a laptop computer in my checked in baggage. At that time there was a small gang of thieves employed as baggage handlers at Aussie airports. (Not known to me then but apparently known to many in the industry). The reason my PC came to attention was my bag was lost and I had to declare it’s contents before they would look for it.

Hence I now carry my cameras, computer, change of undies and shirt and any radio in my on-board baggage.

On my last trip I had no radio but “donated” money to the Christmas Funds at both Immigration and Customs on my departure.

Looks like having any HH or a rubber duck antenna with the FT817 is unwise.


Ok so no situations were what I described. Ie an overnight stopover (not just transit) in Dubai. All experiences related are either transit situations or not Dubai.

Thanks for all the examples of airport security behaviour. Not unfamiliar to me as I have travelled in Asia a bit and the USA, but have not had a stopover in Dubai.

Further research under way.

Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH

Hi Andrew,
Are Emirates arranging the hotel and short term visa for you in Dubai? If so contact them in Sydney and ask them for advice, my experience with them on the two occasions I stopped-over in Dubai (but before I got back into Amateur radio, so no ham gear questions) was that they were willing to follow up on any information required. I was travelling “cattle class” at the time as well.


Hi Ed
Thanks, noted.
Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH


Queenstown airport…

“Would you like to explain all this, sir?”.
“certainly… this is a ham radio, and this is a lifepro4 battery”…
“And it’s all usable in this condition?”
“Well, if I plug it all together, then in theory, yes”…
"Oh, well please don’t do that and try and talk to the captain! " :slight_smile:

He did check the wh rating on the battery, and the terminals were taped over… First time that has ever happened!

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No issues with my recent trip to the UK. No questions at all on the way to the UK and on the return journey they asked to open my carry on bag, I was expecting to have to explain the IATA rules regarding Lithium batteries, but no - it was a bar of soap that they wanted to see, once they realised that is what was on the screen, they were happy.

So LIPO or LIFEPo’s inside equipment (e.g. in the battery bay in my FT-817) go in the hold baggage. Spare batteries, ideally in the original packaging but certainly with the terminals taped up, in the carry on baggage.


Hi Ed, well yesterday in Gran Canaria airport I was set to loose my LiPo batteries until I produced the IATA rules. I had printed the regulations in both Spanish and English and once the supervisor had read the document his attitude changed from a very stern “NO BATTERIA” to a very soft “ok”.
This is the first time in 8 airport security checks that anyone has paid any attention to the batteries, the moral of the story is; carry all the information just in case!

Incidentally, they had no interest whatsoever in the 817, my TomTom GPS, the camera, the Delorme or my Nexus tablet but zoned in immediately on the batteries and called a supervisor to confiscate them.

Victor GI4ONL

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Absolutely Victor!

I had a printout of the IATA rules with me “just in case”, along with a copy of my Amateur Radio Licence.