If you can avoid carrying sorb, it is generally cheaper to get it at your destination. In Florida it is cheap and easy to get at $110 per 45 pound keg. Many other destinations offer sorb and onboard cylinders. It is usually cheaper to rent than pay extra baggage fees. If you are traveling somewhere without support, then you may have to carry sorb in your checked baggage.
Download the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) from the internet for the brand of sorb that you are carrying. Tape the MSDS to the keg and if you feel like being a bit creative, print a sticker on your computer that reads “Safe for Airline Transport” in large block letters and stick it to the keg.
I like to put a formal letter in each case of luggage that begins: “Dear TSA Agent…” Essentially, you want to advise them that this is a diving apparatus known as a rebreather and that it is delicate life support equipment. Put your cell phone and seat assignment on the letter and urge them to call if they have questions. Thank them for their diligence in securing your life support equipment. Put a small bundle of replacement zip ties inside the luggage so they can re-secure the zip pulls or case. If you have a title, logo or company letterhead that looks impressive, put that on the letter. If you have photograph of your smiling face in that diving equipment, print that on the letter. If this is the trip of a lifetime, tell them. Making their job easy, fun and light will increase your chances of getting to the destination with all gear intact.
If you are traveling with your tanks, take the valve out of the tank and place a piece of CLEAR packing tape over the opening of the tank. Only clear tape is acceptable… no plugs… nothing else. Cover the “Oxygen” label with some other duct tape or packing tape. You don’t want any labels that say “Oxygen” to be viewable on any part of the unit. Technically, that voids the oxygen-clean status of the tank, but there does not seem to be a way around it at this point in time. You will need to do at least a visual inspection at your destination, so ensure your have an appropriate light to do so.
I have at times resorted to putting a small plastic flower, sticking through the clear tape, out of the tank. I’ve stood there with TSA agents and argued that I was carrying a unique flower vase rather than a scuba tank. Yes… some folks just don’t understand pressure. In fact, Dr. Tom Iliffe, was once instructed to put the valves back in the tanks, then place a scuba regulator on the tank to prove to the agent that there was no pressure in the open tanks!
In any case, don’t insult their intelligence. Be patient and give them every tool possible to make your trip easy. But just in case, photograph each piece of baggage outside and inside in the unlikely event you need to track a lost piece or make a claim on insurance. Every bit of evidence will help.
Safe travels! — Jill Heinerth
PS – Recognizing the growing numbers in dive tourism, the TSA will attend Rebreather Forum 3.0 in Orlando this month. Perhaps we’ll have an easier time in the future!