Problems importing insect pins

Neal Evenhuis neale at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG
Tue Oct 9 20:13:50 CDT 2001

> >on 10/9/01 10:20 AM, Sally Shelton at Shelton.Sally at NMNH.SI.EDU wrote:
> > >
> > > >>>> David Furth 10/09/01 12:14 PM >>>
> > >
> > > > I have had definite confirmations from at least two persons that
> > >tried/planned
> > > > to hand-carry pinned insect specimens into the USA and were
>forbidden to
> > >do
> > > > so.  One was on British Airways and the other from Costa Rica via
> > >American
> > > > Airlines.
> > > >
> > > > We would appreciate some way of finding out if there is some policy
> > >against
> > > > bringing pinned insect specimens into the USA on board because the 1.5
> > >inch
> > > > very thin insect pins are considered as "dangerous weapons".  This is a
> > > > serious concern for entomologists who routinely hand-carry important,
> > >valuable
> > > > specimens in order to protect them from the postal systems.

In the U.S., security at airports is the responsibility of each
airline, not the airport or Federal Authorities (this I think has
changed today with National Guard being called out at some airports
-- at least here in Hawaii). However, each airline follows the new
FAA security regulations with their own modifications. The definition
of banned "cutting instruments" can be interpreted narrowly or
broadly. I've seen FAQs on the web for Alaska Airlines and United
where these banned instruments are interpreted broadly so that
security may confiscate whatever they feel may be a potential threat
in flight. I've heard of tiny calibration adjustment screwdrivers for
scientific field equipment being confiscated too. And nail files, and
other items from manicure kits, etc. I'm sure the list goes on ...

Here's an FAQ (answer) from the United Airlines website:
In compliance with the Federal Aviation Administration's 11-point
security directive for all North American airports, United will not
allow knives of any size, or made from any material, permitted on

Additionally, United wants its customers to know that cutting
instruments of every kind are banned, including but not limited to,
carpet knives, box cutters, knives with folding or retractable blades
(regardless of blade length), steak knives, straight razors, ice
picks, corkscrews, and elongated scissors.

Medically necessary needles and syringes are exempt from these
prohibitions if passengers have in their possession prescription
medicine with a professionally printed label that identifies the
medical office, pharmacy or manufacturer of the medication.

Granted, we know that insect pins are not much of a threat, but
security officials are just that and nothing more. They may not be as
aware of the silliness of their actions as we are. Since an exemption
was made for syringes and needles for medical reasons, perhaps some
coordinated effort needs to be made to FAA to exempt insect pins as
well from the "banned" list. But from whom does this request come?
And going to FAA will not help much in the international security
arena. El Al and British Airways, for example, will still have their
own security regulations (which I have to admit have always been a
heckuva lot better than anything we've had in the U.S.).

I was stopped in the 1970s when airline hijackings took place and
security was at its height then. I was carrying a box of pinned
insects. The X-ray machine showed all these little pins in nice
little rows. They thought for sure it was some sort of bomb
circuitry. They pulled me aside and gave me dirty looks -- I guess
the long hair and beard didn't help much either. Then I had them open
the box and take a look. They saw all these little insects pinned
into cork and laughed so hard (at themselves for thinking this could
be a threat) I thought they'd cry.

Hopefully, airline security will again see that insect pins are not a threat.


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