Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Traveling with an inflateble life-jacket

As an International Race Official I'm often travelling by air plane. It's hard enough to fit your gear into one bag and stay under the weight limit - and that's made harder because a lot of baggage handlers and air plane personnel don't understand an inflatable life-jacket with a CO2 gas cylinder.

It has been my experience a couple of times that I've been called into baggage handling areas, where I was asked to open my bag. The scanner found the cylinder and was flagged.
Usually it ended up me leaving the cylinder there, because the I was not allowed to take my bag on the plane otherwise. Besides being an inconvenience of having a life-jacket that wasn't functional at an event, it also meant I had to replace the cylinder every time and my own expense.

I always tried to explain that the cylinder wasn't dangerous, that it would not spontaneously open up and that I had detached it from the life-jacket itself, in the off change it would, that it only expell harmless CO2. And that the effing plane had hundreds of those cylinders on there own life jackets, under the seats......

No avail.

Lots of IRO take a non inflatable life-jacket because of this reason. But that is much bulkier and - to be perfectly honest - it is a drag wearing it, being three sizes to small for me.

One evening last week at the Delta Lloyd Regatta this subject came up during a jury discussion and one of the judges told us about a couple of papers she puts in the her bag together with her life-jacket explaining what it is and that it is allowed on planes by the IATA (International Air Transport Association).

I asked her to send me those papers so I could share them with you.

LINK: DGR IATA Table 23A CO2 Cylinder.pdf

The document contains the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations Table 2.3.A in five languages (English, German, French, Spanish & Russia) and a detailed description of the CO2 Cylinder (drawing and specifications). It seems to work if you print it and put the papers with your life-jacket. Even if your bag gets flagged, you have papers to show that it is allowed by the IATA on planes.

If you need to proof the legitimacy of the papers send the person asking, to this link:

If you use it and are flagged, please share your experiences.
Thanks Christine, for sending me the papers.


  1. In the US, you might also print out and carry with you the TSA "Prohibited Items" exhibit (available on website) that explicitly permits two CO2 cartridges with a PFD. To be fair, most TSA agents have never been on a boat, don't know what a life jacket is, and reasonably enough don't know what pressurized gas might be inside the CO2 cartridge.

  2. Sometimes, I have problems with my magnect models in my handbag...

  3. Had printouts of CO2 cylinder descriptions and IATA Table 23A last summer while traveling Europe - USA and back. Worked fine on trip from Europe to USA, on way back all crew members' CO2 cylinders got confiscated in Portland, ME. Showed them IATA rules, discussed, no success. This is a very arbitrary process with luck being a major component.

  4. We all have this problem. There is the added complication of airline's own rules. For example (do not take thyis as gospel) Ryanair allow inflating life jackets in cabin bags. Aer Lingus do not allow them on board at all.

    It is a standing joke that you can recognise an umpire at an airport by their sailing wellies. You need to wear them so as to rationalise your gear and make it all fit in a cabin bag.

    I fit a non inflating pfd to the outside of my cabin bag and carry oilies like a raincoat. People laugh at the bag. At least I think that is what they laugh at. The bag is of course outside the loading gauge. I have never been challenged. I think they know I should just put on the pfd to get around the rule.

  5. I don't have a cartridge vest, but got curious anyway.

    In the list it states "The approval of the operator(s) is required" for the cartridge; it seems like you need to get approval from the airline to carry this...

  6. TSA allows:
    Small compressed gas cartridges
    (Up to 2 in life vests and 2 spares. The spares must accompany the life vests and presented as one unit)in checked and/or carry-on baggage.
    Print out and highlight from
    Also check your airline baggage restrictions. British Airways require you to notify at check-in.

  7. Thanks for the pdf. The link to find it, is not straightforward. Go to:


    and under 'Useful Links' on the right-hand side, is a 'Downloads Page' where the actual document can be found.
    Bookmarked in my rules folder.

  8. This topic pops up every once in a while on the different sites I frequent. I seem to recall a discussion about getting sponsors or organizers to make cartridges available at races. Perhaps it involved a deposit that you could get back at the end of the racing by returning unused cartridges. That would help with the "randomness" of airlines/airport rulings.

  9. * From Howard Paul:
    Regarding Mr. Spijkerman comments about traveling with an inflatable life-jacket (in Scuttlebutt 3601), he has to understand that this is a canister that is under pressure and could be filled with any number of gases that could lead to a terrorist act on board an aircraft, in a terminal or on the airfield. I am sorry he feels "inconvenienced" by not being able to take his canister along. Maybe the answer is to talk to the people at the regatta and ask them to get one for him at the local chandler.

    * From Bill Gladstone, NorthU:
    I carry a couple of copies of the Prohibited Items list for domestic (US) travel, printed from the TSA website: http://tinyurl.com/TSA-053012

    When I check my bag I put one copy of the print out loose in the bag and wrap another copy around the CO2 cylinder. I got this suggestion from Scuttlebutt 2405 (August 7, 2007).

    1. The local one then gets left behind at every event, because I can't take it with me on the way back.
      How did we get into a world were everyone is first a potential terrorist?

    2. Some few people have been trying to blow up hundreds of non-terrorists to smithereens and do other nasty stuff on planes. Some of them have succeeded. It is very hard for the airlines to recognize these terrorists from the non-terrorists ex-ante.

      Wouldn't it actually be a lot easier to ask the organizers to provide canisters? They are standard, and they can use them themselves later (or for you/other judges next event) if you don't fall in the water. I would imagine the cost is negligible? No printing, no discussing, no luck involved...

  10. I now contact event organisers and ask if they can lend me a lifejacket. Usually works except in those countries where nobody seems to bother with PFDs anyway.


  11. There is hardly an airport on the planet that would not find a canister suspicious! If you are going to be travelling with your Sailing Life Jacket then you might just have to find a newer and cheaper way of having a canister too.

  12. I always tried to explain that the cylinder wasn't dangerous, that it would not spontaneously open up and that I had detached it from the life-jacket itself, in the off change it would,

    NASCAR Jackets


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