hand inspection @ airports.
Hi, questions related to this have been asked many times. I know the X-ray might not hurt the film and people have happy stories. But I really don't want to take any chance.
I am taking a trip with about 50 rolls film (120, 135, ISO 64 to 400). I intend to bring all the film back and have them processed in US. Thus I will have them x-rayed at least 4 times. (TSA suggests no more than 5 times). So I will politely ask to have them hand-inspected.
I will have them in clear ziploc bags. Some rolls don't have the original packaging (bulk loading). Some of them are in the original carton boxes, some of them are in the plastic wrap. Should I open them up and put them in the clear bags? Or leave as is. TSA website says leave them in original packagings, then at the time it says leave them unwrapped...
So what is the best way to prepare for the hand-inspection.
Recently they have been very nice about hand inspection. I travel with 120, out of the boxes, and unwrapped, in clear baggies. Throw in a couple of rolls of Delta 3200, so you can tell them you have hi speed film. That's the first thing to say, if they don't want to hand inspect. Be early for your flights if you can. The inspection points run in a rush because departures are usually scheduled in batches, so if you are early enough, the checkpoints aren't backed up, and the peeps are generally more accommodating. Stay calm, and say please.
All the wrappers and boxes must be removed from the film in order to get
a hand check.
Just made a round trip with a variety of about 20 rolls of film in various states of packaging. I carried the film in a clear plastic zip-loc bag. The first leg I had film in the original sealed cardboard box, in black and translucent plastic containers out of the box, and in the Ilford individual sealed plastic bags. They opened the plastic containers to test with swabs and I think also checked the outside of the cardboard boxes. The person checking them was very helpful and worked as quickly as he could on a crowded day with orange alert status. He said they now have to swab test each roll that's not in an original sealed container, not just spot check.
On the return trip I shipped the unexposed film and only carried on the 8 rolls of exposed film. I left two rolls in plastic canisters and the rest were loose metal film cassettes. I didn't even see them open the ziploc bag on that check, but can't be sure. Same orange alert level.
I tried to make it as easy on them as possible, and I think they appreciate that. Both times the TSA folks were very courteous, patient, friendly, and professional.
I also threw in a roll of 1600 color film as Jason does so that I could make the high-speed claim if necessary. It wasn't.
i have seen threads were people mention sending all their film back thru post office or ups or so as to avoid the hassle on return trip.just a thought.
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We returned from a long trip last month involving 12 flights, and more than 16 hand luggage checks. This involved a number of International and local airports in a variety of countries. Turkey, Switzerland, Brazil, Chile and Peru. Only one airport allowed hand checking of "specialist scientific films" and that was San Paulo in Brazil.
All our films went through with our hand luggage in my backpack, some airports had two checks, one on entering the airport the other before boarding the plane. Twice the backpack was scanned two or three times because of suspicious objects - a cable release, and a 617 camera which they insisted in seeing as they couldn't recognise the shape, the staff were very friendly and showed me the screen to ask what the objects were.
All the films were processed immediately after our return and there was no problem with any of them, they included HP5, FP4, Tmax400 and Fuji Superia, at no stage were the security people remotely interested in the film or its packaging.
Most airports just don't have the time or staff for hand-checks.
The first time I tried I got turned down for a hand-check at Manchester Airport. I got about four words into my polite request and the security person snapped (direct quote), "If it doesn't go through the machine it doesn't go on the plane!". I smiled, said "Fair enough!" and had it scanned.
Before I made my next trip I wrote to the BAA, explained that I was an amateur photographer, was intending to travel with high-speed film, gave my flight numbers and date/time of travel and politely requested a hand-check. I received a polite letter back basically saying, "Yes, okay."
On the day, I had the film (with a couple of rolls of Delta 3200 prominently visible) out of the boxes and tubs in a clear ziplock. Again I got four words in and got the same curt response. I politely produced the letter and another security person said, "Oh yes. It's okay, we were expecting him!" and did a hand-check of the film.
YMMV. On the day it's down to the security staff on the gate. Stay polite, stay pleasant, be in plenty of time, make it as easy for them as possible and be prepared to accept that they still might say, "No!".
(Addendum - Last time I went through Liverpool airport they were running a system where you could pay a couple of pounds for a fast-track through security (basically a second scanner without a long queue in front of it). Whether you like the ethics of this system or not it saved me a forty minute stand in a queue and less-harassed security staff provide a better chance of getting requests like this approved.)
The destination is important, but so is the journey
Unfortunately neither of those two options are 100% safe.
Originally Posted by rkmiec
USPS will randomly x-ray packages, as a reply from them to me says:
I also recently emailed UPS re. their practises and here is the response I got:
Some of the mail that is sent through the United States Postal Service® will pass through an X-Ray machine. There are no specific guidelines as to what may or may not be x-rayed, though mail sent to or through larger cities is likely to pass through an X-Ray machine.
Any information available on this issue must be obtained from your local Post Office™. Based on your ZIP Code™ of 10001, the contact information for your Post Office is:
I responded with:
All packages in the UPS system will be scanned during shipment. The scanners that UPS uses are not powerful enough to have an adverse affect on photosensitive film or equipment. Please contact us if you need any additional assistance.
to which UPS wrote:
Dear UPS Customer support,
I appreciate that you are asking me to trust UPS that their x-ray scanners will not fog film, however I would like to obtain some more information about the brand or type of x-ray scanners utilised by UPS so I can determine for myself that the x-ray intensity level used will not fog film.
At least with a hand inspection you know it hasn't gone through a scanner.
Thank you for your inquiry. UPS maintains strict confidentiality regarding internal security procedures. Unfortunately, we are unable to provide you with any information regarding your question.
Last edited by PeterB; 01-07-2008 at 06:02 AM. Click to view previous post history.
No problems with domestic flights in New Zealand so far getting things hand inspected... I had some 3200 pushed to 12800 to go through so was keen to avoid any fog, its being processed at the moment, will be interesting to see if the Ilford backing paper numbers appear on the film
Cleared the bowel problem, working on the consonants...
Shipping is not always the safest option. On two occasions FedEx has zorched film for me. No question about it. Classic sine wave fogging, confirmed by top notch labs. If you do ship film, clearly label it, "Film - Do Not Xray, if Xray is mandatory, stop shipment, contact sender"
These days I'd rather try for a hand inspection, or take my chances with the low level scanners. I've never had the least bit of problem with things scanned at carry on check points. Note that this experience is with first world technology. I can't say that it applies the world over.
It bears saying, though most persons are now aware- exposed, but unprocessed, or unexposed film in checked baggage will be destroyed.