Gear junkie: Many knives meet new airline regulations

2013-03-14T00:05:00Z Gear junkie: Many knives meet new airline regulationsSTEPHEN REGENOLD For The Gazette The Billings Gazette
March 14, 2013 12:05 am  • 

In a dramatic policy change, the Federal Aviation Administration will soon allow small knives on commercial airplanes. Starting in late April, airline passengers can carry pocketknives with small blades.

We're not talking tactical knives. Even most Swiss Army Knives are still banned. But the new rules allow small knives with blades of 2.36 inches or shorter to come into the cabin and travel in your pocket or a carry-on bag.

Fixed or locking blades are not permitted. Neither are knives with "molded grips." The Travel Safety Administration published a document called "Changes to Prohibited Items List" that outlines the new criteria.

I contacted several knife brands this week to find TSA-compliant models in current stock. Gerber's VISE multitool is one example. It has a pliers, screwdriver, bottle opener, and a nonlocking, 1.5-inch blade that should pass inspection in an airport security line.

Wenger's Esquire and Evo 81 models are more fits. These tiny Swiss Army Knives have 1.75-inch blades, small scissors, files and other implements. Approximately 25 knives in the Wenger line qualify, the company said.

Columbia River Knife & Tool lists five models. Buck has a couple candidates.

Victorinox Swiss Army sent me a detailed spreadsheet. The brand lists more than 50 knife make and models from its line that acquiesce with TSA's new rules. Included are knives from the Classic SD, the brand's basic red-handled best seller, to the Lime Classic Edelweiss, a cute pocketknife adorned with the national flower of Switzerland.

The new rules take effect on April 25th. Flight attendant associations and large airlines like Delta have expressed serious concern and opposition to the policy change.

The TSA "Prohibited Items" document is highly visual with knife examples. Bullet-pointed lists reveal what is and is not allowed, including blade length, width and knife types.

But there's room for interpretation with some points on the document.

I will be nervous taking any knife on an airplane still.

SOG sells a knife, the Micron, which has a 1.5-inch blade. It looks like a mini tactical knife, including saw teeth and a tanto-point tip.

Most likely TSA would allow it, but I would double check with an agent before trying to pass through with the Micron's aggressive look and hand-contouring grip.

Gerber goes so far as to list its above-mentioned VISE model as "TSA Compliant" on its website. Other brands I contacted have knives that work but were still parsing the situation before making claims.

"SOG advises everybody to follow the TSA rules," said a company representative for the Washington knife brand. "We're certainly not on a promotional campaign to encourage folks to carry on knives. If there's ever a doubt, check it."

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