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A local flight with British Airways

With all the ISIS threats I have the right to be paranoid and check my seat before sitting on a piece of Radium.

Geiger counter
"Geiger-Müller radiation detector" by Boffy b is licensed under CC BY SA 3.0

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    BA are a little notorious for not cleaning their cabins as much as most fliers would like. I don't think you're going to be sitting in radium, but crisps / nuts / snacks are a lot more likely... – Gagravarr Nov 23 '15 at 11:01
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    Possible duplicate of Can I bring a shoebox PC in my carry-on bag? – CMaster Nov 23 '15 at 11:07
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    To explain the close (as duplicate) vote - the top answer details travelling with a variety of tehnical measureing equipment, of which a Geiger counter certainly counts as. Note that it doesn't discuss your "intention" of using it on a plane - which will, as ever, be at the discretion of the cabin crew. I can imagine they might not want a high-voltage device being used however - the chance of radio interference is there. – CMaster Nov 23 '15 at 11:09
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    @CMaster I disagree, there's overlap and they're related, but taking radiation readings on a plane is a thing (other) people do for legitimate scientific reasons, so, as shown in the answer, there's specific precedent here that is different to the other question. I think this is another case of "Good question asked for silly reason" where we just have to roll our eyes, ignore provocations and remind ourselves that we're creating content that will be useful for other people with legit scientific reasons to take radiation readings on a plane. – user568458 Nov 23 '15 at 11:47
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    @iHaveacomputer Even so, why should that matter? We already discussed this on meta. Let's not start another useless flame please. – JoErNanO Nov 26 '15 at 14:39
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This Has Been Done Before

Setting aside my personal opinion on the reason motivating you to carry a Geiger counter on a plane, you'll be happy to know that this has been done before. Indeed people have carried Geiger counters in hand luggage, according to a quick google search. Some had problems going through security, arguably because the product was home-made and could vaguely be confused with an IED. Others mention they had no problem whatsoever, and even managed to take some measurements in-flight. There is even a Health Physics Society QA post on the topic stating:

Q: Is it permitted to fly with a Geiger counter (Gamma-Scout) in the cabin of a commercial aircraft? I am flying the polar route to Scotland from Seattle this summer and want to see what the readings will be. I have not found any restrictions so far in the United States or on the German or Scottish websites, but want to be sure.

A: There are no restrictions on hand-carrying of electronic equipment such as video cameras, calculators, laptops, or Geiger counters, as far as I know. I have carried Geiger counters in my hand-carried luggage for over 20 years. The Transportation Security Administration often wants these items separated for x-ray screening inspection. I would normally recommend that a probe-type GM (Geiger-Mueller) detector be disconnected and batteries be removed from the case. Since the Gamma-Scout has no probe, this cannot be done. Also, the Gamma-Scout has no ON/OFF switch, so it cannot be turned off. However, I would want to be sure that the sound speaker is turned off. Clicking Geiger counters tend to make people nervous.

General Guidelines and Common Sense

The general consensus across the linked webpages seems to be:

  1. Place the Geiger counter in your hand-luggage
  2. Remove it from your bag and have it scanned separately when going through security checks and x-rays
  3. Be prepared to answer all questions and remember to be friendly and polite
  4. Avoid taking the counter out during the flight since you'll most probably scare other passengers off. The fact that it's an extremely uncommon item to carry and use on a flight, coupled with the loud clicking sound it makes will inevitably cause people around you to be suspicious and/or scared.
  5. If you want to use the counter during the flight be discreet: turn off the clicking sound if possible, keep it in a closed bag so that others can't see it, be prepared to turn it off as soon as the people around you begin noticing what you are doing

All in all security theatre might be a theatre, but it's not a joke. In fact there are people paid to take these matters very seriously. These people also have the final word when it comes to deciding on whether you are allowed or not to take certain items through airport security and/or on a plane. You might be right, they might be wrong, but they decide. You don't. Personally I would avoid attempting to deliberately provoke a reaction in airport security staff, airline personnel, and fellow passengers just for kicks, regardless of how senseless you might think that their reaction to a somewhat harmless Geiger counter on a plane might be.

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    Good answer, but I'd disagree with "If you have to use the counter during the flight be discreet". If someone openly, casually operates an unknown suspicious-looking device on a plane, a paranoid passenger might yell "Hey, what are you doing?", then treat the situation as an emergency only if they respond in a guilty fashion (embarrassing, but you can explain yourself before anyone resorts to violence). If someone furtively, discretely operates an unknown suspicious-looking device on a plane, a paranoid passenger might immediately treat the situation as an emergency. – user568458 Nov 23 '15 at 11:30
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    Personally, if I was taking radiation measurements on a plane, I'd do the opposite of hiding it, I'd get a small portable one (with no sound or with headphones), and wear it clipped to a tool belt, and make sure both it and the tool belt were clearly visible. I'd also try to visibly wear related scientific-looking items that make my intentions obvious, such as a notebook and pens clipped to the tool belt belt along with an old-school scientific calculator, etc. – user568458 Nov 23 '15 at 11:43
  • @user568458 interesting... so according to you a terrorist would have a much better chance of "success" if he assembled his bomb openly and while holding a clipboard? – CodyBugstein Nov 23 '15 at 18:00
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    @Imray, haha, probably wouldn't work for terrorists because they'd still have had to get the explosives through security somehow. But there are loads of funny/shocking security videos of criminals wearing high-vis jackets and hard hats casually walking into big shops, picking up high-value goods like TVs and just walking out while the staff just watch (or sometimes even offer to help!) because they just assume they're workmen doing it for a legit reason. – user568458 Nov 23 '15 at 18:36
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    @Imray Setting off a bomb is normally something that happens fast enough that whether you are being discreet or not won't really matter. The two attempts at US planes failed because the bombs were duds, not because passengers stopped them. (Of course the passengers acted when they realized what was up but the only reason they had a chance was because the bomb had already failed.) – Loren Pechtel Nov 24 '15 at 5:37

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