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I'm flying from New York (back) to Israel, and I'm wondering if it would be possible to pack a gas engine - new, in its original packaging in my check-in luggage.

Here's what it looks like

As far as dimensions and weight (38 lbs) is concerned, I should be fine, my concern is regarding the fact that it's a motor.

I'm flying on elal airlines, and from their dangerous materials page it would seem like a new motor would be Ok.

But I'm not a frequent flier, so I guess there may be issues that I haven't considered.

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  • In the end, the engine got checked - in without any issue. Thanks for the accurate advice!
    – Danield
    Oct 4, 2021 at 13:46

3 Answers 3

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Surprisingly, there's logic in forbidden items in checked in luggage: is it going to endanger the aircraft? Is it corrosive, explosive, flammable in other words. They don't really care about anything else.

In specifics, this is what the TSA has to say about Engine-powered Equipment Completely Purged of Fuel

Checked Bags: Check with Airline

No amount of fuel may remain in the engine, including residual vapors.

Even if completely purged, some airlines may refuse to allow engine powered equipment in carry-on if it has ever contained fuel.

So you are good since it's brand new.

Edit: to react to the oil question, yes you should remove the oil from car parts too apparently.

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    Isn't there also "is it an agricultural danger" when traveling internationally? I guess they might allow it on the plane, but not give it back to you? Sep 12, 2021 at 9:10
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    That's for the border control at the destination. New Zealand for example has an entire Biosecurity arrival process. I needed to throw away a very dangerous sandwich and a brownie I bought at the Sydney airport.
    – chx
    Sep 12, 2021 at 9:33
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    @chx Biosecurity is no joke when it affects agriculture. Especially in a geographical region which is naturally isolated like New Zealand. Even a sandwich can contain viable seeds and eggs, if you half-eat it when hiking and throw the rest away with the logic that "I don't need carry it out and dispose of it properly, it will quickly degrade naturally." NZ already has a declared list of about 120 invasive non-native plant species. But NZ also exports them - e.g. the flatworm Arthurdendyus triangulatus which is now destroying earthworms in Europe and has no predators.
    – alephzero
    Sep 12, 2021 at 13:19
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    @alephzero That's kinda the fault of European countries not having good inspection
    – gparyani
    Sep 12, 2021 at 21:33
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    @chx You tried to bring an OZZIE sandwich into my country? !!!! How dare you. Hopefully you read the signs and disposed of the goods before you got to the $400 mandatory fine point. [[In retribution, when coming from Beijing to Auckland and transiting Sydney - At Sydney they made us all get off the aircraft, take our carry on luggage with us, and then XRay checked us back into the aircrtaft.]] Sep 12, 2021 at 23:00
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Out of personal experience, there is no problem as long as it is new and it has no oils or some sort of residue that might leak.

I have put RC plane engines in checked luggage many times, some of them are more than a 100cc. One time we also put an RC jet engine in a checked luggage with no issues at all.

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It's an engine not a motor

I know engine people use the terms interchangeably, but they're not. A motor is an electric motor - made out of copper, iron and insulating varnish, it contains nothing to endanger flight. So don't go by what the materials guidelines say about "motors".

Why does this matter? You may be shipping an engine, but other people ship electric motors. The regulations will be written for both people, and so the regs need to distinguish a motor from an engine, since they have different requirements.

Engine oil is no-go

At the least, you will need to check your engine for lubricating oils, which ARE flammable - extremely flammable if leaked and soaked into other people's clothing. Oil-soaked rags are every shopmaster's worst nightmare. Oil seals on an engine are not hermetic, and absolutely will leak if the engine is oriented the wrong way. (trust me, I once had an engine tilt about 40 degrees while being hauled, and I found the carburetor bowl full of engine oil! Whaaaa???)

The oil might be in the engine crankcase, or might be in a bottle in the packaging. In the latter case, follow the airline's instructions for shipping oil in a bottle. But I would simply leave the oil in the US, for climate change reasons alone - it will take several times the oil's weight in jet fuel to transport it, with CO2 release many times more than that! Someone in the US can use the oil productively... though I wouldn't put oil from Harbor Freight in any machine I care about, lol.

Why fly a cheap Chinese engine across an ocean?

Predator is a private-label brand of Harbor Freight, a retailer that's all about cheap tools. That's their fame and reputation. US buyers expect junk, and plan to run them til they fail, then throw them away and buy another (possibly a real Briggs & Stratton). There's no parts support. Harbor Freight relies on Americans not bothering to return faulty items (which is a pretty good business model, as it turns out).

Here's the nominally same engine at the HF site. Take a close look at the 2 engines. See how the markings are the same but the engine is different in many subtle ways? That's because this engine is a "private label" re-marking of whichever random Chinese-builder engine is cheapest for this supply contract.

Seriously. You will find higher quality engines at a junk shoppe or flea market.

So why not just do that?

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    An internal combustion engine is a motor. Most motor vehicles are still internal combustion, as are motorcycles and motorboats. In the UK, motorway is the word for what is called freeway in the USA. People who drive are called motorists.
    – Kaz
    Sep 13, 2021 at 2:04
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    I would like to point out that the ‘engine’ versus ‘motor’ distinction is kind of language specific and absurdly pedantic. A lot of languages do not make this distinction (English only has two words here because they have completely unrelated etymologies and ‘engine’ had a very different meaning historically), and even in English they are listed as synonyms by pretty much all general usage dictionaries. Sep 13, 2021 at 2:07
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    @DanielD I'm telling you about an issue that could hang you up. I don't mean the 1-2 CCs of assembly lubricants, I mean the 1-2 litres of engine oil that engines use while in operation. If physical inspection or the documentation shows the engine has none as packaged, then you're all set. Sep 13, 2021 at 2:57
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    I think Harper is being pedantic about the distinction between a "motor" and an "engine" because the regulations make that distinction as well.
    – zwol
    Sep 13, 2021 at 14:28
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    @zwol exactly. If I need to ship a 2 KVA 3-phase actual motor, I will consult the exact same regulations as OP. Those regulations need to accurately educate both of us, so they must distinguish the two things. That's perfectly reasonable. Distinguishing unlike things is not pedantry. Sep 13, 2021 at 20:13

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