What? I can’t take a catapult on board an airplane?

In preparing for a trip to Houston, I’ve done more research about how to travel than should be rationally required.

It’s not like I’m driving, which would necessitate extensive planning. For example, it’s important to know where all the speed traps are, the best stretches of road to pick up hitchhikers (hint: it’s usually within a few miles of a prison) and places prone to random acts of Florida.

But I’m not driving. I’m flying, and flying means my trip begins with a TSA colonoscopy.

Air travel used to be easy. Drive up 5 or 10 minutes before the flight is scheduled to depart, wave a ticket the airline (probably TWA or Continental) sent through the mail, say something grossly inappropriate to an off-duty stewardess, then light up a smoke and board the plane.

For Millennials, this was all once acceptable behavior, unlike in today’s world where everyone is hesitant to use nouns because all nouns are sexist. Smoking is also alien today, like, I dunno, E.T. or something. But people smoked on airplanes back then, and by people, I mean all of them, especially in the 1970s when the country’s motto was, “E Pluribus Smokum.”

The airline’s website claims I need to arrive at the airport two hours before the flight, which simply sounds like a ploy to increase sales at the snack bar.

That’s not why I was researching my pre-flight plan. I needed to know what I couldn’t take on board the plane; I didn’t want to get beaten up because I’m flying United.

No knives. I get that. No liquids more than 3.4 ounce per container? Sure. No hoverboards? How often does Marty McFly take a domestic flight?

Most of the following items not allowed on an airplane make sense, although some seem to be words picked randomly from a sack:


Radioactive materials


Car batteries


Household cleaners




Harpoon guns






Cattle prods

Cordless portable power drills


Spray paint

Baseball bats

Billy clubs

Blasting caps, detonators and fuses, mines, grenades, plastic explosives, dynamite

Snow globes. Yes, snow globes.

As I went over the list, I wondered five things: 1) Who the hell is trying to fit a car battery into a carry-on bag? I have enough trouble with my clean underwear, 2) Does “catapult” include trebuchet? There may be some legal wiggle room there, 3) Why would the TSA forbid harpoon guns and not harpoons? 4) The items on this list are everything passengers would need to survive if the plane crashed and stranded them on a desert island.

And 5), This list exists because either someone has tried to bring each of these items on board a flight, or the airline is paying some schlub to think of worst-case scenarios and write them down.

If so, I want to be that schlub. I would have included Vieux Boulogne, a soft cheese banned from French public transportation because of its debilitating smell. Oh, maybe I should pack that.

Find out about everything Jason at

You must be logged in to post a comment Login