How to fly with an avalanche airbag cylinder
Posted on November 12th, 2012 by edge | 10 Comments
Remember the age-old warning, “Don’t judge a book by its cover?” The same applies to magazine articles. In our last blog, “Powder Magazine: airbags go mainstream,” we took a look at the well-researched avalanche airbag review in the November issue of Powder. In the same issue there’s an article by Cody Townsend, alarmingly entitled, “Blowing up: traveling with your new avalanche airbag pack could put you behind bars for up to ten years.” Great article, but the headline is misleading. Don’t worry, it’s perfectly legal to travel with your compressed gas cylinder–as long as it’s empty.
Townsend is a great skier, a TGR athlete (how we met him), a Tracker2 beacon user, and a great ally of BCA. He’s also married to Elyse Saugstad, who was saved by her ABS airbag last season at Steven’s Pass. But Cody’s perspective is somewhat limited to his experience with ABS avalanche airbags, which can’t be refilled. If you own an ABS airbag pack, you have to travel with a charged cylinder–and a pyrotechnic trigger–both of which are prohibited by TSA (Transportation Security Administration). Therefore Cody is used to “poaching” his way through airports. This is not necessary with a BCA Float airbag pack and cylinder. All you have to do is discharge the cylinder (good practice: you should do this at least once a year anyway), then carry it through security in your carry-on luggage. You can send the rest of the system through as checked baggage, no problem. When you carry the cylinder through, you should unscrew the cylinder head and put it and the cylinder itself in a Ziploc bag so the TSA agents can look inside, if necessary. This info is clearly explained and illustrated here.
So, what do you do with an empty cylinder when you get to your destination? Just drop in to one of our 181 North American refill centers and they’ll get it done in a few minutes. We have set these up in most ski destinations in the U.S. and Canada, as well as most metro areas where skiers live. A few weeks from now, you’ll be able to find the refill center nearest you here (we’ve just redesigned this page and are now filling in all the addresses). In the meantime, you can just e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Traveling outside of North America is even easier: when TSA is not involved, then it’s fine to check through a charged cylinder (don’t’ bring it on board). For more info on this, check out the Float airbag FAQ page on our website.
If you’re traveling from the U.S. to other countries, you still have to go through TSA, so you’ll need to get a refill on the other end. We have a growing network of refill centers in Europe, including all retail locations of France’s largest outdoor retail chain, Au Vieux Campeur. Those listings will also be showing up soon on our refill center locator. In the meantime, feel free to e-mail our European Distribution Center at email@example.com
Now that you know you won’t be spending the next ten years behind bars, go out and celebrate! Or better yet, go out and splurge on a Float!