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On the Ryanair website, I came across an FAQ entry on whether parachutes are allowed on planes. (So I presume it must be asked frequently enough to be added to the FAQ page of a major low-cost airline.)

What is the legality of this in US, UK/EU - are you allowed to carry a parachute on an airplane past security or will it be confiscated / passenger pulled out for screening? Any licenses or such that are required, as with guns?

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3 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

The TSA actually has a section devoted to this on their website:

You may bring skydiving rigs with and without Automatic Activation Devices (AAD) as carry-on or checked luggage.

Typically, a rig will move through the checked luggage or carry-on security screening process without needing physical inspection. However, TSA security officers have a duty to thoroughly inspect any item that raises suspicion. If security officers determine that they need to open a rig to inspect it, you must be present and will be allowed to assist. For this reason, we encourage skydivers to add at least 30 minutes to the airline's recommended arrival window when they are traveling with their parachutes.

Fox News also has an article on strange carry-on items which mentions it, along with pot-bellied pigs and monkeys...:

Skydivers need to add 30 minutes to their arrival time because although you can carry on your skydiving rigs, with and without Automatic Activation Devices (AAD), security may choose to open a rig to inspect it. You must be present and will be allowed to assist with the inspection.

Of course, given the pressurisation issues of a cabin, the speed of the plane, and other factors involved in an emergency, the odds of you being able to use it successfully are extremely ... small...

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5  
It's not a matter of wanting to use it on the flight, it's a matter of not wanting to check life-critical equipment. –  Loren Pechtel Jun 18 '12 at 20:45
    
It is not that nobody ever jumped from a jet: youtube.com/watch?v=T0jUus74x9c –  andra Sep 11 '12 at 7:05
    
+1 for the last paragraph. –  Andrew Grimm Sep 12 '12 at 4:11
    
Related question over on Aviation SE: Why are commercial flights not equipped with parachutes? –  Michael Kjörling Apr 25 at 14:12
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The issue for me has not been one of wanting the parachute with me for safety reasons (what circumstance would require bailing out of a 727 that wouldn't best be served dealing with it in another manner? Yes, the unfortunately obvious scenario comes to mind, but the odds, despite everything, are incredibly low). For me, the primary reason I travel with my rig with me instead of checking it is a simple matter of cost. I have about 5 grand in it. I really don't want to depend on some idiot (i.e. someone not me) to get it to my destination. I've had too many instances of my luggage arriving days after I do, and at least one where, by the time the airline found my luggage, I told them to just send it back to ORL and I'd pick it up there the next day when I returned from my trip (2 week stay in NYC). If I'm travelling with my parachute, it's because I want to use it, not so it can fly all over the US while I wait at my destination.

I've never had delays going through security with my rig. I always check to make sure the AAD is off when I leave home and I pack my hook knife in my checked baggage. While I have had a few quick trips in the past to Rome, Ga where I didn't want to pack a carry-on, I simply left the hook knife at home and kept one at my friends' house to use while jumping there. Normally, security just flips open the covers for my main and reserve and run their chem tests and that's the end of it. I also typically do NOT follow the USPA recommendation and pack my rig in a bag. The bag takes up more space, and I often use as my checked bag and put my clothes in it along with my miscellaneous equipment (the aforementioned hook knife and helmet, altimeter, jumpsuit, etc). However, on light trips, I have put a change of clothing and my gear in the gear bag with the chute. I simply pack it all one one side of the container to make it easier for the TSA to take the rig out if they want to.

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A separate answer because it's more a discussion about the facts and anecdotes from actual skydivers who have taken their rigs on board.

Today I learned you can take your own personal parachute on commercial flights as long as it meets certain requirements

TL;DR - yes you can, as long as certain aspects are inspected and the smoke cannisters / flares are removed.

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But are you allowed to open the cabin door in mid-air? :) –  iHaveacomputer Jun 19 '12 at 7:03
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can't, thanks to an infamous parachutist: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooper_vane ;) –  Mark Mayo Jun 19 '12 at 7:10
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protected by Mark Mayo Jan 6 at 4:00

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