TSA officers at Dayton International Airport have already confiscated as many firearms this year — three loaded, one unloaded — as they did all of last year, they said Wednesday.
The Transportation Security Administration officers see just about everything as passengers attempt to bring prohibited items aboard planes via carry-on luggage.
“We actually have had kitchen sinks come through here,” TSA officer Michaele Ludy said at a news conference at the airport. “Here in Dayton, we see everything.”
It’s the same story at other airports, such as Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson, said Mark Howell, a TSA regional spokesman.
In Atlanta, Howell said, “We have found bones — a human skull, actually — on a carry-on bag.”
The TSA sees an average of 25 to 50 pounds of prohibited items each month at Dayton International, Howell said. The list of prohibited items is long, but in general, the TSA doesn’t want accessible to passengers anything that can be used as a weapon or could pass as a weapon in a threatening situation.
That includes handgun replicas, grenade replicas, anything that could pass as a liquid explosive, and anything that could be used as a weapon — even loaded cap guns, multi-tools with knives, blades and scissors with blades longer than 4 inches.
Most of the items surrendered to the TSA can be placed in luggage checked at the airport. But illegal firearms and explosives will be confiscated and released to police, Ludy warned.
Even harmless replicas aren’t entirely harmless, though. A grenade replica — which Ludy was able to show Wednesday as taken at Dayton International — can cause problems.
When an object that appears to be a grenade appears on a TSA officer’s monitor, everything stops.
“This can shut down an airport in a heartbeat,” Ludy said, holding the grenade replica.
“Something like that can cause problems for the whole day,” Howell added.
Howell said standard procedure is to have internal or external bomb technicians inspect replicas.
“We probably had a bomb technician available who came over and took a look,” Howell said, when asked what happened when that replica was surrendered at the airport.
Howell corrected what he thinks are two common misconceptions.
First, the TSA doesn’t “confiscate” anything that isn’t illegal. He said passengers found with prohibited items are given options: They can check the item, take it back to their vehicle or, at some airports, mail it ahead. (Checked baggage, of course, is sent to the hold of the plane and passengers have no access to it during a flight.)
Second, the TSA doesn’t keep anything surrendered to it, he said. A contractor disposes of those items.
“We’re really asking passengers to pay attention to what they bring to the airport,” Powell said.
A list of prohibited items can be found here.
Anthony Roman, founder and chief executive of Roman & Associates, an aviation security consultant based in Lynbrook, N.Y., said he “strongly suspects” that acceptance of TSA regulations depends on passengers and how busy an airport is.
At John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, for example, there are more foreign passengers speaking many different languages. That situation presents new challenges for TSA officers, he said.
“There are many, many factors that play into whether or not there is more or less compliance,” Roman said.
For Americans who travel frequently, three or more times per year, it’s more likely you’ll see greater compliance, he said.
With infrequent or foreign travelers, he said, “that gets somewhat muddled.”