mandag den 18. marts 2013

Airtravel and Avalanche Airbags

Airtravel and airbag packs are a subject I see debated all over the web and fairly often.
There seems to be a lot mystery and misconceptions around this matter (also among airline check-in staff).

I bought my Mammut Pro 45 Avalanche Airbag Backpack last year, and flew with it a couple of times last season.
This season I have, so far, flown six times with the pack and cartridge.

Some components of the system comes under the dangerous goods regulations. Which part depends on what brand of airbag you use.
For Mammut/Snowpulse, BCA and Wary the dangerous goods component is the cartridge only.
For ABS the dangerous goods components are the deployment handle and the cartridge.

As stated by the IATA (International Air Transport Association) it is legal to carry an avalanche airbag cartridge on a plane. Either in your carry-on or in the checked piece.
Extract from the IATA website:

"Passengers may carry certain articles even though the article contains dangerous goods. Parachutes themselves are not restricted. Some parachutes are fitted with an automatic activation device (AAD), e.g Cypres, which contain small quantities of explosive material. Most of these are not classified as dangerous goods and are not restricted in passenger baggage.

Avalanche rescue backpacks are authorized if they do not contain more than 200 mg net of explosives in Division 1.4S and / or not more than 250 milliliters of compressed gas in division 2.2."

Full text can be found here:

The nitrogen filled cartridges prevalent in Europe (ABS + Mammut/Snowpulse 300bar) are compliant with the above specifications.
Check the specific safety data sheet for your own cartridge type, to see if it's compliant with the IATA regulations. Data sheets for Mammut/Snowpulse and ABS are presented below. For other brands request data sheet from the cartridge manufacturer.

When I fly with my airbag pack (Mammut/Snowpulse), I always carry a copy of the IATA regulations (two pages) and the safety data sheet for the relevant cartridge.
At check-in I present these documents, the staff usually have to call someone to confirm that the information is correct, and they thank me for being professional about the documentation. I have traveled with the cartridge as carry-on and in the checked baggage. I have never had problems traveling with it. I have traveled with it in Europe and in Canada.

The IATA table I use shown here:

Data Sheets for different cartridges from Mammut/Snowpulse and ABS:

PDF versions of the documents can be emails upon request. Please leave a comment.

In the US the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) have a different view on things. Info from TSA on cartridges here:
On the Mammut/Snowpulse data sheet for the "Cylinder North America 207 Bar (with manometer)" we can see that the content is 360 ml Div 2.2, which exceeds the amount allowed by IATA (250 ml).
Hence the NA 207 Bar cartridge is not permitted for air travel. When filled! The NA 207 is user refillable, so to travel with this cartridge, you deploy the airbag (to empty the cartridge), unscrew the top part, and travel with the cartridge as an open container. The cartridge can be refilled from a scuba tank etc.

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