Airport X-ray exposure and September 11

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by thomas_diekwisch|1, Nov 20, 2001.

  1. Just thought I'd share some experiences. Looks like even photography
    won't be the same after the day that changed our lifes.

    I took 10 rolls of Fuji Provia (the 100ASA version!!!) from Chicago to
    the Sawgrass resort in Northern Florida. Airport stops included
    O'Hare, DFW, Jacksonville, and Miami.

    In pre-September 11 times I would ask for manual inspection of the
    film material and usually succeeded. Also, I lived in Dallas for 7
    years and never had a problem with airport X-ray exposure at DFW if I
    left film in the camera.

    This time I even didn't dare to ask for manual inspection (are they
    still doing this anyway?). But when I got my films back, roughly half
    of them had a unilateral fogging and heavy blackening. Even though
    it was only 100ASA. I don't think it was the lab.

    So, what's the thing now? Lead containers for every film? Can you
    still ask them for manual inspection? Are certain airports to be
    avoided (O'Hare, Jacksonville, Miami)? I don't believe DFW has a
    problem. Does anybody else have any experiences?
  2. Buy a big lead bag that protects as high an ASA as possible. Buy your film and develop on site. Ship your film Fed Ex or UPS. I think manual inspection is going to be hit and miss -- depending on the airport, time of departure, and amount of traffic at the checkpoint. I recal a thread about a month ago either on the site or the large format site posted by Ellis Vener that discussed Fuji's recommendations. It is going to be tough.
  3. Here is the link to the site I mentioned -- it is on the moderated forum under Travel:
  4. Here is the link to the site I mentioned -- it is on the moderated forum under Travel:
  5. I have flown several times since and have always (knock wood) been able to get a manual inspection of my film, and I am departing from O'Hare. What I have been doing for most of these trips has been shipping the majority of the film ahead of me via FedEx and then carrying only a few rolls with me just in case the package were to not make it for a day or two. If it is only three or four rolls, I have a feeling the guard is more likely to take the few seconds to look at the film than argue about whether the X-Ray will fog it. It will depend on the guard though.
  6. I am not sure what the new rules will be, but under the old rules,
    you were entitled to a hand inspection of any photographic
    equipment and/or film of your choice. I am pretty sure that this is
    still the case, though I had to be pretty insistent this weekend, as
    the person loading the x-ray three times took the bin I handed to
    her and asked for a handcheck and put it onto the conveyer. I
    gave up and asked a supervisor-looking type who was behind
    her, and he had no problem with it, though he did ask me what
    speed film it was (in the regs, there is no mention of
    differentiation among film types). I explained that I was a
    professional photographer, that I'd be going through multiple
    checkpoints and wanted to avoid any potential problems. They
    ended up searching my jacket anyway, because it had a phone,
    an MP3 player, and a second lens for my XPAN in it and looked
    suspicious enough to merit further checking. Or else they just
    wanted to be a pain in the butt because I asked for a handcheck
    of the film.

    Anyway, keep an eye out for new rules, be polite and insistent if
    you are entitled to a hand inspection, get there early, and have a
    copy of the FAA guidelines in case you run into somebody who
    thinks they know the rules but don't really.

    And remember, these folks are just trying to do their jobs as best
    they can with the rules as they've been explained. Have lots of
    understanding for them - they deal with frustrated people all day


    P.S. If you're shooting 120/220, can't you keep it in your pockets
    and walk through the metal detector with it? Take it out of the foil,
    and there isn't any metal left, right?
  7. You didn't "dare" ask? It must have been a terribly frightening experience.
    Why didn't you ask for a hand inspection? Yes they are still doing this, but you'll have a better chance of succeeding if:
    A.) You get to the airport two hours early -- as they now advise you too.
    B.) You wait till the lines are not long.
    C.) You act professionally and are courteous.
  8. I flew back from Rome Italy on Sep 20th. I have over 80 rolls of exposed film. I tried for a hand inspection and was told "NO" (before Sep 11th Paris, Naples, and Palermo gave me hand inspections). So in it went. I had damage to 5 rolls of HP-5+ 120 rolls from a single pass in Rome.

    You can still get a hand inspection in the USA. Put all the film in a 1 gal ZipLoc baggie so it cam be seen. I carry all the film in the end compartment of my carry-on bag so it's easy to get out quickly.

    A lot of time the inspectors say that the machines won't hurt films under 1000 ASA. Here's the trick to use. Buy a couple of EXPIRED rolls of EKTAR 1000 or some other high speed film and mix it in with the other film. Never use it except to request hand inspections. They will have to give you a hand inspection. Be polite. Very polite. But be firm. The airlines need every passenger they can get.
  9. About using the lead lined bags, a few other posters have written that when they put film in their carry on luggage in lead bags, the inspectors let that "black hole" they saw (from the lead bag) take an extra heavy duty soaking of x-rays, so I'm not sure if the film inside will be protected or not under those conditions. I like the comment about carrying a few dummy rolls of super high speed film-how about some Fuji 1600.
  10. Some interesting information at:
  11. I have assembled many links (both static pages and links to threads) about this topic and posted them on our site at this link. The carry-on "size" regulations seem to remain the same with airlines (since 9/11) still using templates. The biggest change is the "content" regulations -- no pocket knives, scissors, hammers or other tools that might be used as a weapon
  12. My experience (in Europe), certainly flying out of UK, is that security has always been much tighter than it seems to have been in USA. I only once asked for a hand check, I wasn't refused but it was pointed out that film to 1000 ISO is 'safe' so I allowed my materials through and had no problem with fogging. Ever since I've never bothered to ask and still have had no fogging but I've always taken film into the cabin as hand luggage.

    My wife & I flew out from Newcastle Airport, (N. England), for Salzburg, Austria on Sept 12. As you might imagine they were being ultra-cautious and allowed virtually no hand luggage through and insisted that even my packaged film (about 30 rolls, all 35mm.), would have to go into the aircraft hold. There was no reasoning with them "It's for your own safety sir"! At least they did allow me to take into the cabin most, (but not all) of my Nikon gear.

    Now I've always thought that hold baggage was likely to be blitzed with a higher dose of X-rays than hand stuff so I had fears for my film. The first day out in the Austrian Alps I fired off a Provia F film and was fortunate enough to find an E6 processor in the village of Mayrhofen which processed it on the spot. No problems with it.

    I was still nervous for the reurn trip and the possibility of a re-run of the Newcastle experience but found out beforehand that cabin luggage would be allowed so I carried films through. Otherwise I'd have had them all processed in Austria.

    I had no film faster than 100 ISO so perhaps that saved the day.

    I'm sure that using lead shielded bags would only increase the interest of the security people and that would make them increase the dosage so can/do these things work in practice?

    I've mentioned in another post on this site that it's important to remember that exposure is cumulative and so every passage though an X-ray device effectively lowers the ISO rating of film which will be safe.

    As a footnote to this, when we went through the airport checks in Salzburg we were allowed no sharp objects in hand luggage. One of our bags showed a folded knife on the X-ray machine. We knew there wasn't one in the bag so we went through it with an official, couldn't find it, then we realised it was a folding corkscrew! (Essential treavelling equipment). The whole episode was friendly and, surprisingly they even let us carry the thing through. Now to the crazy bit. Once 'airside' we were able to purchase, and did, two duty free, one litre bottles of brandy/whisky to carry on to the aircraft with our other hand luggage. (We could have done the same at Newcastle on 12th but didn't). Just imagine what fearsome weapons could be made by smashing together two such solid glass bottles!!

    Trevor Littlewood
  13. Re; Mr. Littlewood's experience with checked film, it's worth noting that currently, most checked bags do not get x-rayed. Only a handful per plane, determined both by random selection and screening criteria, get blasted by the high dose x-rays. It's a kind of photographic Russian Roulette. Part of the new air security bill just passed by Congress will, however, force an upgrade to x-raying all checked luggage; they implementation of that may be possible by spring.

    Interestingly, on my last trip home from Portland to San Diego, when they refused to hand check even my Delta 3200, I went back to the ticket counter and the ticket agent was able to determine from her computer screen that I was not schduled for x-rays, gave me a box and had me check my film and backs. I wasn't charged extra even though I was already at my checked luggage limit.

    Portland security came up with a couple of interesting statements (conveniently immune to proof at the time) that are outright lies as far as I can tell: 1) new FAA regulations prohibit the hand checking of film (O.K. how come they only told the folks at Portland?) 2) the machines have been tested safe to ISO 4000 (wasn't it only allegedly 1000 before 9-11?)

    Anyone have anything definitive from the FAA?
  14. FAA regulation 14 CFR 108.17e is still in force, it seems. (Please see some of the other X-ray related Photo.Net threads.) The problem seems (again; I wish I could confirm but the regs are still posted, unchanged) the airlines' agents hired to enforce security are being given (or concocting) widely divergent instructions. Ignorance and confusion reign.

    I went through LaGuardia and Newark airports yesterday at the hands of United Airlines' security and got two completely conflicting responses to 14 CFR 108.17e. One group lied about, misinterpreted, and finally refused to adhere to the reg. The other happily hand checked my film. The regs are clear, that's not the problem.
  15. I flew from Newark to Salt Lake City and back in late October with lots of Tmax100 and FP4. As 2 hours was barely enough time (we finally got to the security gate 1h 45m after arriving at the terminal) I put the bag through the X-ray machine. I didn't feel like wasting time arguing with guys that were holding M-16's. Almost all the film has now been developed and thus far I have seen no fogging. Even so, next time I'm going to FedEx the film.
  16. This discussion has revolved around USA airports and FAA regulations, but does anyone know or have experience with International flights and regulations pertaining to different countries worldwide?
  17. "I went back to the ticket counter and the ticket agent was able to determine from her computer screen that I was not schduled for x-rays,..."

    Thousands of people die in plane highjacks, and airport staff are still happy to tell people whether or not they will be subject to security checks. Great security!
  18. m m

    m m

    This really gets me steamed. I recentley Flew from Lima to Miami and on to Seattle, with 40 rolls of exposed film, including 15 rolls of Kodak TMZ 3200. In Peru security was pretty lax. I was granted a hand check no problem. But in Miami it was a nightmare. When I politely asked for a hand check, and without even saying no, the security woman yells to her supervisor "He's refusing inspection". I told the supervisor that I had high speed film. I even showed him the "Do not X-ray" on the packaging of ann unused box. His reply was that the FAA was not allowing any film aboard the plane without being X-rayed, with the exception of X-ray and CAT scan film. So I took my bag back and went over to the American Airlines counter. I spoke with a supervisor, who imediatley dished out major attitude. I simply wanted to know if FAA regulations had changed regarding hand inspections of film. She barked that they were changing every day. After a few more unbelievably rude replies, I calmly said that I didn't understand why she couldn't simply answer my questions. Her response at the top of her lungs was "I don't understand why people like YOU don't seem to understand that we're trying to protect the security of this nation!"

    The interesting thing to me is that we do not controll Security on flights coming into the country. I gaurantee that a plane from South America would destroy a building just a much as one from within the States, although without as much fuel.

    One more thing. About two weeks before my flight I had been carrying dynamite for the miners at the Candalaria mine in Potosi Bolivia, in the same bag that was checked on the plane. And one of the wrapers had been in it until a few hours before my flight. They sure as hell didn't "sniff" it with there high tech gadgets, but they sure did make a stink about my film. Sorry for the really long post. :)
  19. Under the Code of Federal Regulations, film doesn't have to be x-rayed in US airports (except maybe film backs)! It does not matter what speed it is. It can all be hand checked if you like. Here is how to avoid the X-ray machine Check my page on it! There are links to all the relevant regulations as well as tips to make things go easier:
  20. Thank you very much, Aaron, for your highly qualified and detailed response. Contributions like yours help raising this forum to the outstanding level at which it is.

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