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Knife carry regulations on aircraft

Jul 28, 1999
My understanding is that carry in airplanes (domestic) is ok for knives w/ blade lenghts of 4" and under. I have flown w/ delica (2 7/8") no questions asked. But what about fixed blade knives, who has carried and what have been the hassles?

I flew out of Austin Bergstrom Airport with a 4" Blackjack folder. Not only was it confiscated, but a couple of security officers gave me the Q&A long enough that it almost made me late for my flight (this shocked me, I've flown out of San Antonio with the same knife without a hitch). Frankly, I'm surprised that you've been able to fly with your Delica. The lesson I learned is that all my knives will be in the luggage, not on my person or my carry on.

The biggest knife I've carried on a plane is a SAK Tinker. It's never gotten a second look. I carried a Spartan (same but with a corkscrew) for years living/traveling in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Korea, without a hitch.
I think carrying any locking knife would be a bit tricky. Often it's not what the regulations are but what the individual security person's regulations are.
Also, I would definitely recommend you do NOT carry any knife, no matter how small, that has serrations on it onto a plane. They're considered "menacing."
Ima believer, for a folding knife you want to carry on your person into the plane, it's best to keep it under 2" to 2.5" of blade length; and as James said, with a plain edge. The FAA has its particular guidelines for what can be carried onto a plane, but each and every airline company can have additional restrictions if they feel it's necessary to them. So, you may be able to get by with a 3" or 4" folder on one airline, but only a 2" on another. By keeping it small, plain, and unintimidating, you should be able to board anywhere without problems. Any fixed blade knife or large folder should be packed into your luggage that you check in at the ticket desk.




AKTI Member #A000094

Honey, I swear that's the last knife I'm going to buy...

[This message has been edited by Savman (edited 04 August 1999).]
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer; I am a dork who posts unqualified opinions on the net.

As I understand it the FAA regulation says "pocketknives" with blades under 4" that don't look "menacing" are allowed.

There are a couple of words there with definitions that might be subject to debate, but in my opinion any knife I carry in my pocket must be a pocketknife, whether or not it's designed to fold in the middle and cut my fingers off (none of mine are). All of my pocketknives are under 4", and in my opinion none of them look menacing. Especially not the undetectable plastic ones -- plastic knives look much less menacing than steel, in my opinion. Of course it's conceivable that if an airport guard were to discover my pocketknife he might disagree with my opinions on those matters of opinion. It's probably just as well that I never fly anywhere anyway.

-Cougar Allen :{)
I've had my knife taken out of my carry on, measured, and then given back to me to put in my pocket. (you should see the looks I get from people in the line every time I try and board airplanes) IMHO the tip of the day is folders under 4" and the more they look broken in the better. I have a fifteen year old Smith & Wesson folder that has spent at least ten years in my back pocket and looks it. I take it with every time I travel. It's a lock back with a soft spring that opens one handed every bit as easily as my Genesis and is one heck of a lot less intimidating. The key is not to look like you have a knife "because" you are on the airplane. Also stay away from anything with serrations.
I have had different experiences in different airports around the world. In this country it depends on the region and what the people consider acceptable. In Europe it seems a little more strict as far as a uniform code.

I personally would not mind giving up my carry ability if they were to enforce the regulations more strictly. I travel far to much, and push fate to many times

All the knives in the world go round and round, round and round, round and round...DAMN, one of them took my wallet !!! :)

The topic has been covered quite a bit in the past. I know it's a bear to find old posts with the search feature not working, but there was quite a bit of good info & some first hand experiences. IMO, it's worth browsing the old threads.

FWIW, I now use a Cricket as a money clip and simply put it together with other metal objects in the tray. It has never goten a second glance either domestically or internationally. Of course, YMMV.



I could never understand why anybody needs to fly with a knife on their person or carry on anyway? Put it in your checked luggage and then you don't have to worry. That's what I did when I flew to Florida last month. I figured I wouldn't miss it too bad for just a couple of hours.
Greg, I agree with you. I am also unable to understand why people wish to risk various nastiness, up to and including jail time to have a knife with them for a short time on an airplane. I always put mine in checked luggage.

Walk in the Light,

I agree, what would you do with it anyway? Flick it open and closed constantly? I'm sure the airlines would frown on that.

Besides, what use would a 3-4" folder be against an assasin armed with a sub-machin gun?

BTW: What happens if you stab your folder through the side of the airplane while you're cruisin' at 30,000ft.? Will you get sucked out the hole?

!!! Loca Grande !!!
I'll second (fourth?) the opinion that you should check everything. The peanuts aren't that hard to open...

Corduroy, you can hardly get peanuts on airplanes now, with all of those "peanut free zones." LOL
That question keeps coming up ... this time I'll try an analogy. Imagine you have buckled your seat belt every time you've gotten into a car for the last umpteen years; if you ever forget to do it you get an uncanny feeling of extreme vulnerability that drives you nuts until you figure out what's wrong and buckle your seat belt....

Now you have to drive in a strange city where driving isn't any safer than at home; in fact it's more dangerous -- and some petty bureacrat tells you it's against the rules for you to wear a seat belt in his jurisdiction.

Don't you want to tell him to stuff it?

By the way, some of us would not be at a ridiculous disadvantage with a knife against a submachine gun, not in the confined space and close quarters of a crowded aircraft.

-Cougar Allen :{)

I think that's a fine analogy and you make a good point. The thing to remember, though, is that flying is hardly a normal situation. Somebody is going to put me into a metal tupe with several hundred other folks and hurl me through the air at close to the speed of some handgun rounds. If they want me to put my sharp things away, or wear a funny helmet, or even cluck like a chicken, I'm inclined to do as they say. Yeah, it may not make sense, but you're flying! Maybe that's akin to a ride on the subway for some, but for me it's a pretty rare and wonderful thing, and I don't mind if I have to alter my daily routine a little bit 'cause it's already pretty darn altered by being several miles up in the air.

I'll focus my efforts on the stupid bureaucrats that won't let me carry an automatic knife anytime or anyplace before I worry about the ones that make me put my folder away for a two-hour flight.

Finally, if you can stop a hijacking with your pocket knife, are you really at such a disadvantage if you have to use a Bic pen?

Thank you, Drew. That is how I feel about flying, but add a degreee of uncertainty about the unnatural aspect of the whole procedure, and you get to where you are, I suppose, a sheep for that bit of time, doing what you are told. While I constantly resist most regulations, it is not worth it to fight over one so minor and one that I experience so infrequently.

Walk in the Light,

I have been served bagels and cream cheese on Alaska Airlines. I used my non-menacing 3"- plain-edged locking folder to slice the bagels for my row, and assist with a non-cooperative pull tab on somebody's cream cheese container. The Wife just gave me The Look.

It's unnatural for people to be without a knife of some sort. I suppose it's unnatural for people to fly too.

AKTI Member # SA00001
I agree that one really doesn't need a knife on an airplane. The problem is that if you prefer, as I do, to travel with only carry-on luggage -- saves time at the airport and keeps them from losing your stuff -- then your only choices are to carry your knife with you, or do without (I suppose you could buy another knife when you reach your destination and then mail it home?).

What I do is I carry something small like a Ladybug or Cricket, put it in the pocket of the passport case I use to carry my stuff (amazing, but true -- no one gives you s**t for carrying a "purse" when you're a 200+ lb. weightlifter) and then put the passport case into the outside pocket of my carry-on bag to go through the x-ray. Never a word from security.

A suggestion for those of you who HAVE to have a cutting tool with you on the plane: the Swiss-Tech Utilikey. It's no weapon, but you do have 1 3/4 in. of cutting edge

the utilikey is great for secure areas-courthouses, airports, etc
love it for that

personally, i carry on airplanes for the same reasons i do on the ground, and i dont want to be in a survival situation without a blade(i realise the chances are really teeny, but with my luck it would happen the one time i check all my baggage) also, i dont like being in strange areas(airports) without a blade- and ive had to wait quite a while for checked luggage in the past.
i try not to go anywhere without a knife(or many) and a firestarter of some sort.
RYK, What are you going to do, start a campfire in the middle of the baggage claim area while you wait for your luggage to come up!
Cougar and Drew both make good points. I used to fly a lot. I prefer to drive when ever possible if for no other reason than I will need a car when I get where I'm going, and I'll need the stuff in my car when I get where I'm going. Also, I don't really like being trapped in an enclosed space with a lot of people who I don't know and probably don't like.

In the old days flying a lot I always wore a jacket and tie, (urban camouflage) I would take all the metal out of my other pockets and put them in my jacket pockets. The jacket then went on the conveyer with my carry on.

More recently when I have had to fly I have always carried my red handled BM Leopard Cub, part serrated. Never any problem. Just lucky I guess. The thing that I find interesting however, is that I always carry in my pocket a 3" piece of copper pipe, slightly flattened in a vise with end caps on both ends. One end cap slips off, and inside is a small folding pair of reading glasses. First time I flew with those I was expecting, almost looking forward to being asked to explain what the he11 they were, but apparently, short lengths of copper pipe are not on anyone's list of suspicious items.

Any way, general observations: Security officers are generally locals, country airports where locals are more apt to carry knives themselves are pretty easy to get through. City airports, O'Hare, DFW, LIA that are really busy normally have the sensitivity of their metal detectors turned so far down that you could walk through them with the front bumper off a '47 Jeep CJ under your coat and not set them off. Once you pass security once, regardless of how many times you change planes you will generally be inside secure areas, and not have to go through security again, unless something unless something unforeseen occurs and you end up becoming a Denver resident over night. This, by the way is yet another reason I don't fly if I have any choice in the matter.