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Qantas denied my engine passage on my flight. Woes of travelling with PPG.


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Well, I figure I should write this up as a learning experience for myself and others. It's been a very trying experience that I don't think I ever want to repeat.

I've been flying in New Zealand and I needed to travel to Melbourne, Australia. My kit is a Backbone with a ROS 125 engine.

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Backbone chassis, cage, harness and tank weighs 12kg.

90cm tall, 50cm wide, 40cm deep (requires a large box for a lawnmower to fit - or about 200 liters!)

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ROS 125 engine weighs 14kg.

60cm wide, 45cm tall, 33cm thick

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Four days before my scheduled flight I pulled the engine off the frame, took off the air box, flushed the fuel system, took apart all the fuel hoses, opened the throttle body, and opened the carb and allowed it all to dry and be open to the air for four days. I took paper towels and wiped everything. I washed the fuel tank over and over with hot water and detergent. I washed all the hoses with water and soap. Flushed the primer bulb and fuel filter.

After three days of airing I:

Wrapped plastic wrap all around the throttle body (airbox detached).

Wrapped the entire engine in an entire roll of paper towel.

Wrapped the entire engine in an entire roll of plastic cling wrap.

Put the entire engine in two layers of thick plastic garbage bags. 

Put the fuel lines and bulb and filter in two layers of ziploc bags. 

Put it all into a bag with lots and lots of padding.

---- Shipping ----

All prices are in NZD.

The fuel tank and air box I shipped in the same massive box as the chassis and harness. Cost was about $170 just to Melbourne (the cardboard itself was already 6kg + 12kg equipment @ $9/kg shipped).

The collapsed cage wouldn't fit in the box so I had to put it in a ski bag as check-in baggage.

The engine was just in its own separate heavily padded backpack.

Qantas is the only airline that allows internal combustion engines. 30kg is included for baggage, but I had to buy an extra 5kg @ $13(!) / kg  = $65 for the motor and ski bag and ski equipment. 

---- Shit ----

And this is where it all went wrong. 

I declared my engine at the check-in and had all the paperwork ready. I asked the person if people have checked engines before and they say it happens sometimes. The moment I take the engine out of the bag the person goes "WHOA that's a HUGE engine" and I'm just thinking "crap crap crap crap crap."

She has me open the thick plastic garbage bags to do a sniff test and she immediately say that it smells. It smells heavily of *plastic bag* but the attendant simply says it smells. Calls another attendant over and she says she smells something too. Finally a third attendant comes over but takes the engine partly out of the garbage bag because "the plastic bag smell was too strong." Unfortunately he smells "a bit" of petrol and points to the propeller mount. 

Anyway, the engine gets denied passage, I had to pay $10 to store it for a friend to pick up, and I hopped on the flight with my remaining luggage. I lost the $65 I paid for excess baggage because it's nonrefundable and I never got to use it. If I had not had a friend to pick it up for me, I would have had to forfeit my entire ticket and deal with the added complexity of arranging more accommodation for additional days and transportation to that accommodation with a long ski bag (most taxis don't take ski bags).

--- Aftermath ---

So now I'm in Melbourne with my engine stuck in another country with a friend who doesn't know anything about engines or paramotors. 

--- Lessons Learned ---

If you try to take your engine as checked baggage on a flight, it's a roll of the dice. You might get through sometimes, but that *one* time you have issues your logistical complexities and cost will increase exponentially.

Fuel smell is really hard to get rid of 100%. Less than a drop of fuel spread out over the entire surface of an engine and I bet it would still be detectable by smell.

Attendants don't know what fuel should smell like. The first two people got it completely confused with the strong smell of the plastic bag and they would have erroneously denied passage to it even if all I had was a grapefruit in the bag. 

Putting it in multiple sealed plastic bags just helps concentrate any little bit of leftover odor that might be hanging around.

If I *had* to check it on a flight again, I would have packed the hoses and bulb and filter in a completely separate container. Or just thrown them out. And I would have taken the engine completely out of the bag for them to sniff because I didn't smell a thing when I had finished cleaning the engine before wrapping it up.

But the best bet is just to ship the engine separately. There's too much at stake when you try to check an engine on a flight with you.

Having a really light kit that breaks down really compact (NOT a lawnmower box) will save you so, so much elbow grease, sweat, aggravation, and costs.

Edited by fuzzybabybunny
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Bugger :-(

When we have traveled with ours, (and get asked) both Pete and I have used the 'Aircraft parts' card (rather than the engine word) I think this may have been your downfall. :-(

As far as I know it, Engines HAVE to be checked prior to loading. I am not sure the same applies to 'parts' 

I have a mate on the North Island and a Couple on the South island if that is of any use with the recovery. 

SW :D

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1 hour ago, admin (Simon W) said:

Bugger :-(

When we have traveled with ours, (and get asked) both Pete and I have used the 'Aircraft parts' card (rather than the engine word) I think this may have been your downfall. :-(

As far as I know it, Engines HAVE to be checked prior to loading. I am not sure the same applies to 'parts' 

I have a mate on the North Island and a Couple on the South island if that is of any use with the recovery. 

SW :D

Thanks. I've got a buddy in New Zealand that should be able to help. 

I can't do the aircraft parts route. Qantas requires me to fill out a form before I arrive at the airport declaring that I've flushed the engine and they need to approve it. I then need to declare the engine at check-in. Failure to do so could result in huge fines because petrol is considered dangerous goods if someone realized it was an engine (like through x-ray) and I hadn't declared it. I think if I were in the USA I could even face jail time...

Edited by fuzzybabybunny
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Gutted for you mate :|, many well laid plans put to waste I'd imagine. 

Having bought a Zenith frame for the purpose of travelling with my paramotor kit at some point in the future, I've got to admit I'd think twice now before taking it on an aircraft. It's a crying shame because I'd really like to fly in the USA. 

Hope you get it all sorted.  

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Not as the recommendation but just as an experience.

I recently had my stuff in the luggage (2 pieces of standard - not a special paramotor - bags). Disassembled, motor apart from frame, cleaned, no fuel no sparking plug. Key thing was – everything was heavily wrapped up with cling film – no smell at all. For the question “what is this” the answer was “towing device for paragliding sport”. No further questions.

My friends were waiting outside ready to take the motor in case it goes wrong.

PS It seems that it comes to the point when it is virtually impossible nowadays to legally take paramotor in the luggage… Whatever the company you are flying with is telling you the airport security has its own view…

 

Edited by Ivan
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Hi, I spend half my time in Turkey and travel back and forth to Uk every other week or so. I needed an engine in Turkey permanently so decided to take my old monoplane out with me, weight 18.5kg, flying Turkish airlines.

I washed out the tank, took off the fuel lines and packed them in my hand luggage, broke all the engine down and strapped it to a plywood back all wrapped in bubble and pipe insulation. Whole thing went into an old Fresh Breeze travel bag.

Prior to travel I rang and asked about taking a parameter on board and was told it was Ok. When I came to book in on line I could not as it said I had registered a 'Special request" which worried me. But at checkin the lady was totally relaxed about it, just a quick check with her colleague that paramotor was Ok and that was it! No sniff test, no tricky questions and no fuss!

Maybe I was just lucky, I haven't ever taken it on board since, but otherwise maybe try Turkish :.)

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  • 3 weeks later...

What a Bugger! Not fun. Surprised that  they asked you to open the plastic bags - normally they just sniff inside the suitcase / box.

Because of frequent air trips, I have completely removed the original fuel lines etc from my motor, and replaced with a blow tube mechanism, and clear (yellow) tubing.  The primer bulb I last used three years ago still smells like petrol(!), is a no-go. Also a good idea to pull the carb completely apart and let it air for a few days as there is always fuel trapped inside.  I also always remove the engine from the frame (have added mechanical/electrical connectors to make this easy) and put it in a separate suitcase to the frame and fuel tank. The engine is then small, can be wrapped in many bags and doesn't smell. The frame is not an engine and therefore is not checked for fuel smell.

Yep a lot of hassle. I have had to open up my engine once in Bali, and they let me on, once in Taiwan, after being through the scanner. Have been lucky I guess...  

 

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On 19.11.2016 at 03:13, notch said:

 The primer bulb I last used three years ago still smells like petrol(!), is a no-go.

 

Not a trouble at all I believe. Just wrap it in a cling film and it will be alright. I did not even removed the carburator - cling film does it job. 

But to reiterate - unfortunately it is still gambling. I have written about dozen letters to Lufthanza, KLM, Iceland Air, airports and so on. The very same response every time - combustion engines are not allowed in the lagguage.....

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I have taken my motor to the US by checking it in (from UK)

I replaced the fuel lines with new ones and cleaned it out as much as possible. It looked pretty brand new. It was in a custom made cardboard box with loads of those foamy padding particles. Looked quite professional and new.

 

The fuel tank I put in a separate bag, wrapped in cling film. There was no way I could get rid of the fuel smell until a whole packet of cling film had gone round it!

 

I was asked a few time if it was brand new or not - I replied, "yes, never used". They opened up the box 2 or 3 times during all the transfers.

I don't think I would get away with it now cos my exhaust is way too tatty and the frame looks a lot more used now.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi - Just an update. Bought my parameter from Izmir Turkey to Gatwick on Wednesday with Turkish airlines. This time I did not tell them beforehand. Washed out petrol tank and wrapped and carried it in my hand luggage along with fuel pipe. Everything else just wrapped in protective foam in large carry bag from Fresh Breeze. At check min lady asked me what was in bag and I explained. Said that was fine, it went through security, same question but no-one interested in even opening to have a look. Had tp pay €30 as sports equipment. Case came out on baggage reclaim at Gatwick all fine.......just no problem at all with this airline!

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On 01/12/2016 at 21:22, Hayneflyer said:

Hi - Just an update. Bought my parameter from Izmir Turkey to Gatwick on Wednesday with Turkish airlines. This time I did not tell them beforehand. Washed out petrol tank and wrapped and carried it in my hand luggage along with fuel pipe. Everything else just wrapped in protective foam in large carry bag from Fresh Breeze. At check min lady asked me what was in bag and I explained. Said that was fine, it went through security, same question but no-one interested in even opening to have a look. Had tp pay €30 as sports equipment. Case came out on baggage reclaim at Gatwick all fine.......just no problem at all with this airline!

Good to know! :-) thanks for the update!

SW :D

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