TSA: What can go on airplanes?

TSA: What can go on airplanes? 49 CFR Part 1540 By Fred Workley The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has issued 49 CFR Part 1540 [Federal Register: Feb. 14, 2003 (Vol. 68, No. 31)]. This interpretive rule provides guidance to...


Weapons are objects that may be used to attack another. TSA considers an item to be a weapon under 49 CFR 1540.111 if it is created for use as a weapon or is so similar to an item created as a weapon that it appears to be, or is easily used as, a weapon. Weapons include firearms, as well as realistic replicas of firearms. Such realistic replicas are prohibited because their similarity in appearance to real weapons may allow them to be used to intimidate passengers and flight crew. The screener has the discretion to determine when a replica is so realistic that it should be prohibited. Other toy weapons will be allowed in the sterile areas and cabin. Partial weapons and parts of weapons also are prohibited, because, they may be carried separately by collaborators for assembly subsequent to entry or boarding. In addition, partial weapons may appear to be operative and could be used to intimidate passengers and flight crew.

Sharp objects are also included as weapons as they could be effective in intimidating or harming passengers or crew. These include knives; devices or instruments with razor blades, such as box cutters, utility knives with razor blades, and razor blades that are not components of safety razors; and metal scissors with pointed tips. Screwdrivers, drills, and axes are also included in this category. Screwdrivers that are components of eyeglass repair kits, however, will be allowed in sterile areas and in the cabin.
The prohibited items list also includes as weapons many club-like items, whether made for use as weapons or made for other purposes but capable of being used as weapons. Items include billy clubs and nightsticks, as well as items of sporting equipment, such as baseball bats, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks, and tools such as crowbars and hammers.


Explosives are substances that explode or cause an explosion. While many explosives may have commercial uses, they clearly could be used to damage an aircraft or harm passengers and flight crewmembers. Examples include dynamite, plastic explosives, blasting caps, fireworks, flares, gunpowder, hand grenades, and ammunition for firearms. Realistic replicas of explosive devices are prohibited for the same reasons that realistic weapons are prohibited: They can be effective in intimidating crew and passengers.
Incendiaries are devices or materials capable of causing a fire as well as realistic replicas of these devices. Examples include gasoline and other fuels, gas torches (including micro-torches and torch lighters), and strike-anywhere matches. Incendiaries also include aerosol cans containing flammable liquids. Although many personal care and toiletry items may come in the form of aerosol cans containing flammable contents, the prohibited items list specifically excludes these items when carried in limited quantities into a sterile area and the cabin of a passenger aircraft. Under these conditions, the materials pose little risk.

Disabling chemicals and other dangerous items is another category of weapons. These include items that are intended for this purpose, such as tear gas, pepper spray, and mace, as well as household chemicals that may be used for this purpose, such as liquid bleach, chlorine for pools and spas, compressed gas cylinders, and batteries that may spill acid.

Rules governing hazardous materials

The prohibited items list contains a number of substances that constitute hazardous materials under separate DOT regulations for hazardous materials. Hazardous materials require proper markings, labels, and packaging. Part 175 contains a list of passenger exceptions that include some personal use items, such as toiletries, medicinal products, and limited quantities of certain matches and lighters for individual use, even though they otherwise constitute hazardous materials. Individuals with questions about the types and quantities of hazardous materials prohibited aboard passenger flights should contact the Hazardous Materials Information Center at (800) 467-4922 or go to http://hazmat.dot.gov/infocent.htm.

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