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Knives on Airplanes

Used to be that under 4 inches blade length met FAA rules (didn't mean you wouldn't be hassled at the metal detector though). Now, as I understand it, it still has to be under 4 inches and doesn't look tactical/mean/.... whatever that means. My experience with travel on airlines has generally been very good and, all my knives are folders under 4 inches.

Selective enforcement and poorly trained/educated officers at the metal detector is the biggest factor you will find with regards to getting into secured space or not. Also, for some reason putting my knife in the x-ray'ed bags seems to cause less stress and they are easy to put back in my pocket out of sight of the officers at the x-ray machine.

This seems like a good topic for a written opinion from the FAA. Perhaps there is something available online that addresses this hmm.....

Stay sharp,
I confess that I'm leary of attempting to carry a blade on a commercial flight. Danelle provided me some insight into what to expect based on her experience with FAA security personnel and of course lots of reports from knife owners. As I understand it, the blade must be under 4" and non-threatening. Which indeed begs the question, "threatening in what way," to a bagel, or a hangnail? The interpretaion rests solely with the security personnel. There are some pretty presumptive, inexperience security guys. A coworker had someone start a pat-down of him without asking first when he set off the alarm in Seattle because of steel toed shoes. He even told them ahead of time he was wearing them. I'm tempted to put mine in my check-in luggage. I fear that if I try and carry it on, and the security people happen to be the sort who are frightened of toothpicks, finger nail clippers, and anything other than perhaps a plastic spoon (and we all know those sort of folks abound), they will freak out and I might miss a flight or even lose the knife. I may be concerned over nothing, however, I still haven't made up my mind what I'll do. To check or not to check, that is the question.

This has been an ongoing concern here and in other forums as well as the usenet bulletin boards. Once we have to depend on the interpation factor (what is threatening?), we have some major problems. Also, airservices have you at a disadvantage as travellars don't have the time to stand around debating the final points of the law.

My question is this - must airlanes explicitly state their "carry on " laws to you, the consumer, in print if you request them? When you go to purchase tickets, you are certainly given information and airline rules. If the industry can keep this material from you (their logic being that you wont be able to find a way around the rules if you don't know them), that prohibition should be made public.
Taken from another thread.

I can only ad that if you are like me and wish to carry a knife with you on board you may want to carry a self addressed stamped padded envelope with you with a priority mail stamp on it. Although I have never used mine some other members have. FAA regs are not very clear and subject to interpretation. Depending on who is looking at your knife when you go through the metal detectors, your knife may be subject to seizure. The envelope is a ticket home for your knife, just in case.

Now for those of you with knives which have a clip. I am not condoning ilegal activity here but if you feel you must bring your knife with you which is over the limit for FAA, and it has a clip, simply turn it into a makeshift money clip. When you get to the metal detectors toss it into the basket knife side down and put your keys or other metal objects on top. It has worked for me countless times. Once there was no basket and I actually through the knife with my money in it around the side of the metal detector and retreived it on the other side. The guy looked at me funny and I told him there was no basket and I did not want to hold up the line for a money clip.

Also if you want do a search here with FAA in the search line and you should get some valuable reading.

Best Regards,
Mike Turber
BladeForums Site Owner and Administrator
Do it! Do it right! Do it right NOW!

Also the title of this thread reminded me of a joke. Make sure they put your knives in the plane and not on it. They would most likely be blown away

Flight attendants always ask me to get on the plane and I always tell them I would rather ride inside the plane

You gotta love George Carlin

Best Regards,
Mike Turber
BladeForums Site Owner and Administrator
Do it! Do it right! Do it right NOW!

A risk always has two components: likelihood and severity. What is the risk involved in getting on a plane without a knife?

Must open peanuts package with teeth:
likelihood - high; severity - very low.

Crash in Andes, need knife to eat fellow soccer players:
likelihood - absurdly low; severity - high.

Need knife to stop hijackers with MAC-10s:
yeah, right.

Now what is the risk of trying to bring the knife onto the plane?

Knife is taken away:
likelihood - moderate; severity - low to moderate.

Try to sneak knife on, get patted down, stripped, maybe jailed:
likelihood - low to moderate; severity - moderate to high.

Personally, I wouldn't bother to try. Leave the knife in your luggage and tackle those peanuts with a ball-point pen.


(Why else would a bear want a pocket?)
Thanks for the post Corduroy!
I'm also trying very hard to understand WHY all the fuss & concern to carry a knife while aboard an airplane...
I collect knives and carry one daily - but not when traveling.
(I have occasionaly purchased knives on reaching my destination..).
Am I missing something here?
Ed E

[This message has been edited by Ed E (edited 06 June 1999).]
This topic gets posted about once a month. Many of these type of questions can be answered if the Search feature was used. Anyway, here is the link to my earlier post on the subject.


Ed E - Why all the fuss? Have you read the post about why bring a knife to a wedding? Because you can. Knives are meant to be carried and their use is practically unlimited, but most important, a knife is no good where you can't use it.

Happy flying!

[This message has been edited by ekaagan (edited 06 June 1999).]
Hi EK;
Well, I DO bring a knife to a wedding because, yes, I can.
I DON'T try to bring one on a plane because, even if I could, it might be a hassle and so not worth it - to me anyway.
Yea, a knife has unlimited uses, etc. - But what exactly are you planning to cut when aboard a plane????(refer to Corduroy's post above).
From your reply, I assume that your are attempting to expand the boundries of where YOU CAN take a knife to include the airlines.
Is it really worth it?
Ed E

[This message has been edited by Ed E (edited 06 June 1999).]

[This message has been edited by Ed E (edited 06 June 1999).]
I guess it really comes down to whether or not you, as an individual, see a NEED for a knife while traveling. You are right, Ed, it is a personal choice. I was surprised to see how many respondants (to my initial post in the Tac Forum) actually carry knives of differing configurations onto airplanes when they travel. I always carry a small knife aboard, albeit a small one, attached to my keychain. It has helped me out with situations besides the peanuts bag. In general, I feel better about traveling/flying when I'm with carrying.

About the topic in question, here are a couple of observations I have made with respect to all the information that has been posted in these forums:

1. If you decide to carry a knife onboard an aircraft, make sure to carry the smallest one necessary for your purposes. Never try to carry a knife over four inches in length.

2. Never, never, carry ANY knife overseas unless you plan on leaving it at the airport as a donation.

3. Carry a plain-edge. Serrated attracts undo attention.

4. If you are going to carry something you absolutely don't want to loose, carry a SASE for mailing your knife back home in the event the unyielding rent-a-cops won't let you pass.

5. Finally, keep it low profile and don't attract attention to yourself by unecessarily flashing your knife in the airport or on the plane. If anyone asks, just tell them it is required in your line of work which is emergency rescue (which is true when you consider that rescuing yourself IS your primary job).

BTW - After what happened in AR last week, I'm more inclined to carry onboard than ever. Even after the crash, your knife could have been a life saver for the trapped and injured.

As I posted somewhere else before, there's a story in the Victorinox website about a kid on a plane choking to death, and a doctor happened to be aboard. Everyone started screaming for a knife and one passenger had a SAK, which the doctor used to successfully cut an airway to save the kid's life. Sure, probability of that is not high, but the alternative...

I carried a SAK Spartan to Taiwan, South Korea, and Hong Kong over a period of several years with no problems, and it was my only knife for almost a decade. Maybe the rules have changed since then...?

I'll probably opt now to carry my SAK Executive (smaller, flatter, gentlemanly) on future domestic flights. I've never tried to carry any locking blade or non-SAK knife on board. I always just act like the knife is no big deal, and my SAKs are not real expensive pieces anyway. But I rarely if ever have checked-in baggage on domestic flights, so if in doubt I'll stick the knife in my carry-on. Even putting it in the coin tray I've never had any trouble, though.
We've answered this question again and again and again. Can we pleeeeease put this into an FAQ and then just refer people to that source?

The FAA regulations say that folders less than four inches are ok. But, the same FAA regulations give the guards broad discretion to reject anything or anyone they don't like. The guard can refuse your knife, even if it is less than four inches, just because he doesn't like its color.

We can all sit here all day and tell stories about how one guard refused to let a Micra pass while another waved by a Cold Steel El Hombre by. The fact is that enforcement is very, very spotty.

The other fact is: you have no recourse. If the guard doesn't like your knife or you, then you're not going by. It's silly to ask for a supervisor. Unless the guard has made a patent mistake, the supervisor will back the guard every time. The guards are supposed to error on the conservative side.

The trick is to minimize your chances of being abused by all of this.

In general, I feel that the key to being treated well while traveling, from the sky cap who can wisk your bag to the correct plane or who can "accidentally" misroute it to the wrong airline guaranteeing that it won't make your flight, by ticket agents who can welcome you to the roomy exit row or sentence you to the back bulkhead across from the restroom and where the seats don't recline, to the guards who can pass or reject your pocket knife, to the gate agent who can let you slip aboard a bit early before all the overhead bins fill up or can hold you up until everyone else has boarded, to the cabin attendant who can hang your jacket in the closet or force you to stuff it under the seat in front of you, to the baggage agent who can make a few phone calls and quickly locate your lost bag or who can file a missing baggage report form which might take a week to get processed, the trick is to dress well and treat everyone nicely.

If you dress like a gentleman, speak like a gentleman, and act like a gentleman, then they'll treat you like a gentleman and that four-inch tactical tanto with the fully-serrated blade your carrying will suddenly become a gentleman's pocket knife. These people deal with a thousand passengers a day. They have seconds to form an opinion about you. They are necessarily going to judge the book by its cover. So, put on a good cover.

I have carried my BM AFCK for years through airport security a couple hundred times and only had it rejected once. I've now carried my Rekat Escalator through airport security a couple dozen times and the only comment I've received is, "Wow, that's an ugly knife."

"Speak softly. It's easier to carry an Escalator that way."
I travel up to a week at a time without checking luggage.So if a knife goes with me,it goes on me.A plain edged Random Task has always seemed agreeable to the crack airport security professionals.One thing they do at my home airport,CLT,is that they measure blade length down to and including the pivot pin.So if one is close to a 4" blade length, that extra distance may put you over the top.It Isn`t right,but that`s the way it is.
I fly with a Leatherman, an SAK, and a plain edge one-hand folder under three inches. I'll probably take a Benchmade 825 in my shirt pocket next time around, since it's a good knife, but it's inexpensive enough that if I meet an unusually paranoid security crew it won't cause too much grief.

By the way, I've seen reports on the knife forums some time back that Atlanta, including the Atlanta airport, has a three inch limit for pocket knives carried in public. Blade Show visitors take note.

I was in DIA (denver international airport) last week picking up a friend. The first time through security I took out my Benchmade Venture and gave it to the Security guy. He took a look at it and said it was fine, and gave it back. After finding out that my friends airplane was delayed 2 hours I left the terminal and came back to the security and found a totally different crew. I gave my knife to the new security guy and he said I would have to leave it there and pick it up on my way out. Sort of makes you wonder...
For the past several years I have passed through security without any problems while carrying my SAK manager and Cold Steel tuff-lite on my keychain. My tactical folder is always bagged with my luggage. At museums in Washington, D.C. I have been detained at the door while my Calypso JR. was being measured;
they have always let me through.

Corduroy: I love your posts. They always humor me!
Hey, thank you for humoring me!


(Why else would a bear want a pocket?)