Are RC Cars Allowed On Airplanes?
A few weeks ago I was planning a trip to new york to visit my cousins and my aunt, and being a massive RC car enthusiast, I was thinking of taking my beloved Traxxas Slash with me. But then something popped into my mind: Are RC cars allowed on an airplane?
Airport security is notorious for confiscating very run of the mill stuff, and I didn’t want to take any chances with my Traxxas. So I actually decided to contact several agencies like the TSA, CATSA, and CASA, among several European agencies to really know if they will have a problem with RC cars. I even took this 1 step further and decided to check with international agencies so that you Aussies, Britons, and Canadians are also informed.
And after speaking with several TSA reps, calling the Department of Homeland Security, and doing some more extra research on the internet, I’m happy to report that RC cars are officially allowed on an airplane, in either a carry on or a checked bag, as long as the batteries are taken off the RC car and the controller. If the RC car is gas powered, then you are going to have to make sure that the tank is completely empty before you put in on your bag.
Please keep in mind that even though they might be approved by TSA and most airports on the world, the final decision on whether the RC car can get through or not rests with the airport officers. So in other words, if they think there’s something fishy with your RC car, they might decide to confiscate it!
Since TSA agents can be super paranoid sometimes, there isn’t a 100% guarantee that your RC car is going to pass through the security officers. But more likely than not, it’s going to get through. But if you are really worried about your car getting confiscated, below are a few things you can do to make sure that you enter and leave the airport with your beloved car. I also talk about if you can travel internationally with RC cars.
Which Agencies Will Let You Travel With RC Cars?
As I said above, I checked with different security agencies around the world. While most of you guys reading this article are going to be concerned with the TSA, I also posted information about European, Australian and Canadian guidelines regarding RC cars.
- TSA: The TSA is actually one of the least restrictive security agencies when it comes to RC cars. if you are going to be traveling in the united states, then you won’t have a problem with electric models. Nitro RC cars might be a different story though. If the TSA finds even just one drop of fuel in a nitro car, then say goodbye to your toy. Also, the TSA might not have a problem with the car itself, but they might have a problem with the batteries used to power either the car or the controller. The TSA will allow Lithium-ion, Alkaline, and NiMH batteries in either the carry on or checked luggage (storing them in the carry on luggage is preferred by the TSA). Make sure that the car or the controller doesn’t have any batteries installed before storing it.
- CATSA: The CATSA is Canada’s version of the TSA, and from what I have researched, they will allow RC cars on a carry on bag. You could also store the car on the checked luggage, but it’s more likely to get your toy confiscated if you store it there. When it comes to nitro RC cars, please make sure that the fuel tank is completely empty before storing the car, or else you might have issues with security. And when it comes to batteries, the CATSA does allow the storing of batteries in the device, but you are only allowed to travel with them if they are under 160 Watts-hours. Most batteries used on RC cars are under that amount so you probably won’t have a problem with that. But other than that, they will accept all types of batteries, including Lithium, NiMH, and Alkalines.
- CASA: Australia’s agencies are a little bit more restrictive when compared to the Canadian and American agencies above. I did my research and I didn’t find any explicit information indicating that RC cars are allowed or not. However, I did find some reports of people traveling with their RC cars with no problem on RC enthusiast forums. So you probably could travel with your RC car on your carry on. And when it comes to batteries, you can only have them in your carry on bag, but not on the checked luggage though.
- European Union: Most European airports are going to be just fine with RC cars. However, as I said above, nitro RC cars might be the exception though. As long as there’s no fuel in it you should be fine. Also, when it comes to the batteries, you need to seal them and store them securely. The EU airports have been known to have issues with inappropriately stored batteries, which might catch fire on the checked luggage, so I would just recommend that you store the batteries as safely as possible.
How To Avoid Getting Your RC Car Confiscated
If you are still worried about losing your toy to TSA officers, then here are a few things that you can do to ensure that doesn’t happen. here they are:
- Cover Up Any Exposed Wiring: If your RC car has a lot of exposed internal components or wiring, then that could be a red flag with TSA officers. This is because they might think that you made a makeshift explosive using the RC car as a frame. Make sure that any stray cables are inside the car’s frame. Also, if you unscrewed any parts of the car, make sure to screw them back in tightly. Other things that TSA officers might be on the lookout for include broken plastics and obvious signs of tampering.
- Take Batteries Off The Controller: Make sure the car’s transmitter doesn’t have any batteries on like I said several times above. Ideally, you are going to want to avoid traveling with batteries inside the plane. The best thing to do is to just buy the batteries after your flight to avoid any problems with security. TSA staff (and other agencies) has been known to have issues with batteries, no matter how small they might be.
- Store The RC Car In The Checked Luggage: Another wise thing to do is to store the car and the controller on the checked luggage. TSA tends to be more restrictive with what is allowed on a carry on bag. While officially they are allowed to be stored in your carry on, I personally would recommend that you store it in the checked luggage where its less likely be taken away.
- Preferably, Travel With An Electric RC Car: Electric RC cars are less likely to get confiscated than gas models. Even if you completely empty your RC car gas engine, it still might have a little bit of gasoline inside. TSA will probably know this and might not allow the RC car inside the plane because of the fire hazard associated with it. Some people might only have a gas model, and if that’s your case, make sure the tank is completely empty before putting the car on the bag. An RC car with even 1 drop of gas inside the tank will obviously get confiscated.