Terminally Spineless Administration (TSA) Caves – No Small Knives on Planes

The proposed change would have aligned the TSA Prohibited Items List with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Prohibited Items List, making airline travel more consistent for international passengers.

As we have pointed out previously, the emotional outcry and political opposition ignored the fact that TSA already allows onboard knitting needles, scissors up to 4-inches and screwdrivers and tools up to 7-inches in length, all of which can be easily used as a weapon. The under 2.4-inch folding knives that would have been allowed posed no greater threat.

In the meantime, scarce resources will continue to be wasted harassing travelers; resources that would be better spent concentrating on serious threats from bombs and other much more dangerous devices. The TSA is living up to its pejorative nickname, the Terminally Stupid Administration. Perhaps we should change that to Terminally Spineless Administration?

April 25, 2013: Caving in to political pressure from flight attendants unions and others, the TSA backed away from their ruling that was to take effect today, allowing small knives on passenger aircraft. DO NOT try to take your small knives onboard!

ch pointed scissors, knitting needles and other tools onboard. None of the dire events they warned about then have occurred in the 7 years that followed those rule changes. Click here to read a Dear Colleague letter from Arizona Representative Matt Salmon that covers these facts.

We encourage you to write your Representative and Senators in support of the TSA ruling.

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In an announcement at an aviation conference in New York, TSA administrator John Pistole said that effective April 25 the TSA was is lifting its ban on small knives in the cabin. His comments weren’t entirely clear and the TSA has now posted a slide show on their website illustrating what will be allowed and what will still be prohibited. Click here to view the TSA “Changes to Prohibited Items List (PIL)”

Pistole said that the allowable knives will be limited to “retractable blades shorter than 6 centimeters (2.4 inches) and narrower than 1/2 inch at the widest point.” From the slide show it is clear that by “retractable” he meant “folding.” Still prohibited would be “knives with locking blades or molded handles,” Pistole said. Fixed blade knives are also prohibited.

Keychain sized knives like the Victorinox “Classic” Swiss Army Knife or Leatherman “Squirt” or “Style” multi-tools are allowed. There is bound to be some confusion and some very disappointed and perhaps upset travelers at the airports due to the fact that except for the blade being 5-7mm too long (Wenger or Victorinox, respectively), the most common SAKs look virtually identical to the Vic Tinker knockoff that is illustrated in the slide show. Whatever knife you are carrying through the airport, be sure to measure the blade length from the handle to the tip (not just the sharp edge).

Victorinox and Leatherman have lobbied the TSA for many years for this exemption and it appears they final succeeded. Congratulations!

The term “molded grip” is not an industry standard descriptive term and has apparently been invented by the TSA. It would appear to include any handle that is at all ergonomic and exclude anything but a slab-sided SAK or multi-tool. One wonders if the Wenger Evo or Evo-Grip Swiss Army Knife handles would be allowed or prohibited? (As an aside, Victorinox, who bought Wenger after the 9/11 knife prohibitions decimated sales, announced recently that they were merging the Wenger lines into Victorinox and Wenger would no longer exist as a separate company) Beyond that, at least one of the knives illustrated as having a “molded grip” clearly has an ergonomic metal handle, which is not molded plastic. We’re guessing that there will be further clarifications as travelers lose knives to the TSA.

In the end, the final decision rests with TSA on whether to allow any item through security checkpoints. As many travelers have found out to their chagrin and disappointment, TSA can be less than consistent at times. Your safest bet is going to be to stick to the basics.

Razor blades and box cutters are still banned. Citing the 9/11 terrorists that used box cutters to kill flight attendants on the aircraft they hijacked, “there is just too much emotion involved with those,” Pistole said.

Pistole said allowing these knives onboard would align the U.S. with ICAO and European standards and allow screeners to focus on the highest priority threat, non-metallic explosive devices. Since we have reports of passengers being allowed onboard in Europe with locking blade folders, we’re still not clear how “aligned” this ends up being.

While hardly entirely rational in nature, it is a step in the right direction and one virtually all knife carriers will celebrate.