Another Photographer's Dust Blower Raises Eyebrows at Airport Security

Another Photographer's Dust Blower Raises Eyebrows at Airport Security

This is not the first time we've covered a story like this, the last one was "because it could fly like a missle" but another photographer experienced some troubles in airport security due to his camera dust blower. Photographer Noel Patterson had such a problem on his trip to Reykjavik via Icelandair. When his bag was scanned at Manchester Airport, his dust blower was deemed to be an issue.

The guard went to the supervisor to check and then said that any object that could be held up and look like a grenade was prohibited - even though everyone obviously knew it wasn't.

While I have had a couple of grumpy TSA agents getting my high ISO film hand checked, no one has even mentioned my rocket blower as a possible infraction. He inevitably went back  through security to mail it to himself to avoid confiscation. A little bizarre you can mail a suspected item... I’m not sure I’d have been willing to endure the checkpoint again rather than purchase another dust blower.

The airline spokesman told Amateur Photographer that the staff on duty for this interaction were not available for comment that day. The spokesman also added;

We recommend passengers do not carry items through security that look like, or could resemble, weapons.

Whether these be lighters shaped like guns or even pieces of kit or electrical items that could potentially look threatening, they will more than likely be confiscated in line with current regulations.


After looking through Manchester Airport’s banned item list, I was unable to locate a dust blower. If you have any crazy airport stories, tell us below. Since this is the second widely disseminated story in the last year (who knows how many more there have been that have not been reported) involving a dust blower, it's probably safe to say you shouldn't travel with it internationally if you want to avoid trouble.

[via Amateur Photographer]

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Brian Reese's picture

You can't really say, "...I was unable to find a dust blower." on the list. Because "dust blower" or not... it resembles an explosive device. Which is listed. And it appears that they have made it clear not to bring items on board that resemble those listed items. It'd be like saying, "I was unable to find lighter on their list" when you're trying to carry on a .357 magnum BBQ lighter replica and get upset about it.

Anonymous's picture

My cell phone looks like an improvised IED trigger. My backpack looks like the Boston bomber backpack. If security is dumb enough to think it's a hand grenade, and is unable to ensure that it's not via a quick inspection (like they do for cell phones and backpacks, and shoes...), the don't deserve the job.

Sinh Truong's picture

I got stopped in Berlin and pulled into a room because they thought my Sekonic light meter was a weapon. Happens quite a bit with unfamiliar objects...

Adam Peariso's picture

Don't bring a tripod then. If you hold it a certain way it looks like a gatling gun. Also, make sure the TSA never see this video |

Shayne Thomas's picture

hahahahah! now that would certainly cause a major issue for us travelling photogs...

Jason Ranalli's picture

While I agree that the TSA policies are complete overkill I just pack stuff like this in my suitcase; it's not worth the hassle. Cameras come with me...blower would go in the suitcase.

I was flying in Turkey a few years ago and I started taking my shoes off, opening up laptop, tossing bottled water in THEIR security line and they looked at me like I was nuts...apparently they don't check any of that stuff over there or at least they didn't when I was there.

Andy Price's picture

About 3 years ago I was changing planes in Amsterdam and when my camera bag went through the xray all of a sudden people were stepping back and they asked me to open the bag. Giottos blower - none of the staff had ever seen one before. Ended up everyone laughing but scared me for a few minutes!

Sai Saelee's picture

Anyone ever did a DIY wired remote trigger? Something like this?

Yea, it didn't go so well with me. I was pulled to a room with a bunch of TSA and was held for over an hour. I missed my flight and they took it away from me.

I knew I shouldn't bring that trigger, I just forgot to take it out my bag.

michael buehrle's picture

TSA are so stupid. there is no common sense left in this world. any moron can see what it is. i don't care what it looks like, if someone is gonna bring a grenade on a plane it's not gonna be squishy and have a big red thing on it. i can think of 10 other ways to smuggle something real on a plane.

Fritz Asuro's picture

But let's be realistic. They might be grumpy and it's like they don't have common sense, but I am more appreciative as they take such small things seriously. It's everyone's safety! I don't expect TSA to understand or recognize a photography cleaning equipment. And you can never say - Terrorists can make simple objects into death traps. It would be way better to cooperate, explain what you have that they suspect to be "dangerous", if all else fails - leave it. A plane ticket is much more expensive than a blower anyway.

Alex Cooke's picture

Do they disallow turkey basters too?

Jennifer Kelley's picture

I got hassled in a major way flying to Portland a few months after 9/11. We had a ton of infrared film that couldn't go through the scanner and you couldn't open the canister. We had to convince TSA to use the dark bag. As soon as the plane landed we bought reels and chemicals to develop before we came back.

A few years later, I had an issue flying to NYC with my then 4 year old son. He didn't want to take off his shoes (because you're supposed to leave shoes on in public places) and was freaking out about the Lightning McQueen crocs going through the machine. They had an issue with one of his toys because it launched projectile. And by projectile, I mean an action figure that launched a foam disc. We were a real threat to national security with an action figure.

BUT... 2 years ago I flew with a friend to a bachelorette party for one of our friends. The one I was flying with is a Passion Party rep. So you can imagine what was crammed in her carry on. Not a word from TSA.

Michael Lombardo's picture

Well if TSA wouldn't let a bunch of dildos on the plane then most people would have to be turned away at the check point.

Jennifer Kelley's picture

Maybe the secret is to hide potential problem items in a giant bag of dildos.

Samten Norbù's picture

So much grumpiness must have an explanation ... maybe this one ?

Mujtaba Sayed's picture

I would love to travel the world as a photographer, but due to the stereotyping that might occur, I am kind of afraid.

Stian Zimmer's picture

Come on guys, it's wrong to condem airport security for trying to protect the passengers and the goods that travel through the airport, which evidently is you! And if you get stopped with a bit of plastic worth only a few quid why argue and ruin your travel when you can just say sorry let them take it and walk through keeping a pleasant journey intact. And get a new one at the other end?

Jennifer Kelley's picture

Because the issue is that the rules and regulations are so restrictive and clear as mud. Many times, people would check something that is a potential issue IF it was clearly going to be a problem. Not to mention the number of people getting hassled over things like breast milk and wheelchairs and children's shoes. There hasn't been one shred of evidence that getting practically strip searched at the security checkpoint has made us more safe. The reality is, people who want to do harm are extremely creative and our airport security (and national security) only takes a reactive approach. The chances of someone making another shoe bomb or putting explosives down their pants are low because it's already been done and we check for it. The next guy is going to think of something no one else has thought up.

TRON !'s picture

Stories like this are why i've started to hate flying post 9/11.

Corina Marie Howell's picture

I'm glad mine looks more like a spaceship. :)

Anonymous's picture

Rocket. It looks like an RPG. Take cover!!!

Paolo Linares's picture

I was traveling to Mexico... and in the checkpoint while they were checking my baggage, one of the officers told me " Sr. could you explain what this artifact is?!" after explaining he just laugh and told me that they thought it was some kind of explosive...

Dudley Didereaux's picture

There is a very sound reason that the UsofA's air security is such a mess. If you remember right when the TSA was formed (in a mad rush) this countries employment rate was at an all time high. The only people left to hire were the dregs. That is not a cruel hyperbole. They hired with in adequate background checks (remember the number of felons, some awaiting trial). Those people were not high Iq types.

Now lo these many years later those same people are now in supervisory, and management positions; Do you think they are going to select people smarter than themselves?

That is the whole problem...nutshell and all.

michael buehrle's picture

i don't mind the check but its the morons. had a guy literally dump my camera bag out to check it. i did draw some attention to myself since i was yelling at them for dumping 2 nikon D3's, 70-200 2.8, 300 2.8 onto a metal table. i made my point but did get into a little bit of trouble until the state cop showed up (who was a nikon shooter ) and basically told them they were incompetent for dumping 20k in gear out on a table. i did file a complaint but no one ever followed up (big surprise huh ?) and my gear was ok (it was nikon so not surprised) but i was heated for days after. i even told them before they looked to be careful but got the "who the F@#K are you to tell me anything look" before they did it.
i'm angry about it again now and it's been years since it happened. arrrggggg !!!!!!

Adam Pardy's picture

Apart from the risk to your equipment if you were smuggling some kind of IED through, surely the last thing you would want to do is mishandle it.
I appreciate that they need to check if it looks weird on the scanner, but its fairly obvious its a dust blower and harmless.
Unfortunately its the sort of industry where you have staff basically little more than shaved chimps(my apologies to the chimp population for that simile) who like to throw there weight around and are drunk on a little bit of power.

J C's picture

This problem could be solved if Giotto and other blower companies made these blowers in other colors. I'd prefer a bright orange blower anyhow, easier not to leave behind while traveling.
But ultimately, it is the TSAs fault for not properly training it's agents on obviously common things that people might carry on a trip: camera gear!!
BTW: remember those snot removal things parents with babies carry? They look JUST like these blowers! If we put the blower in a diaper bag, maybe that will make a difference.

Chris Blair's picture

They make me open my camera bag every time and show them the big bag of wires...because wires = bomb apparently.

michael burke's picture

A common personality trait of intellectually-challenged, chronically incompetent individuals (requirements for airport security jobs) is the need to feel powerful over those who they perceive to be their superiors (practically everyone). This is one of their favorite tactics.

V Phoenix's picture

Many Idiots in Jordan also..... They took my blower also......And O.b. woman tabon from my wife............