CATSA’s Top 10 Checkpoint Discoveries
When you screen 54 million passengers per year, you’re likely to make some interesting discoveries along the way. Last year, screening officers at Canadian airports intercepted thousands of items that are not permitted in carry-on and checked baggage – some of which raised a few eyebrows. The following is CATSA’s Top 10 list of interesting checkpoint discoveries. Absent from the list, but intercepted on countless occasions, are accessories such as brass knuckles purses and belt buckles, as well as grenade-shaped lighters and pepper spray. Gun replicas are also a frequent find, with a range of items in all shapes and sizes, including lighters, clothing accessories, incense holders and – a sign of the times – USB keys.
Imagine the surprise of the screening officer at Terrace-Kitimat airport who noticed suspicious-looking metal rods in a bag and decided to investigate, only to find a mini rocket launcher that included black powder and other flammable chemicals. While watching ♫ skyrockets in flight ♫ may provide joy to young and old, we suspect passengers may not have been so hot on the idea of combustible items onboard at 20,000 feet.
Edmonton screening officers received an unusual tip from an unlikely source. The owner of a carry-on bag that was being searched advised them to watch out for “shocks”. They couldn’t figuratively avoid said shocks, as they found a powerful flashlight-taser that was promptly confiscated by police.
Large metal objects are hard to hide when going through airport security, but that didn’t stop a passenger in Vancouver from attempting to conceal a couple of crowbars in his shoes that he then placed inside his carry-on bag. The items were immediately spotted by the screening officer working the x-ray machine and removed from the bag, despite the passenger’s protests that they were simply a set of excellent shoehorns.
At Toronto-Pearson, screening officers noticed strange shapes in a passenger’s jacket during a search. The passenger told the officers that they were empty hair rollers, but when subjected to closer inspection the passenger was singing a different tune. Nineteen live canaries were discovered concealed in the rollers, resulting in a lot of positive tweets at the checkpoint. At that point, our friends at the Canada Border Services Agency took over.
As a Montreal screening officer was performing a search with the hand-held metal detector, he noticed an unusual lump in a passenger’s sock. The passenger was questioned and admitted that he had strapped a pack of fruit candies to his ankle in an attempt to hide it from security. The box was unstrapped and enjoyed during the flight, as solid snacks like fruit candies are permitted in carry-on baggage.
A Thompson (MB) passenger didn’t lie when screening officers saw an anomaly on her lower body and asked if there was something concealed underneath her clothing. In fact, she voluntarily removed a one-litre carton of wine from her pants. Reminder #1: if you have liquids over 100ml, you can’t take it with you – at least not in your carry-on!
A checked bag that was making its way on the conveyor system of the Calgary International Airport attracted the attention of screening officers, whose subsequent search revealed what initially appeared to be an alarming arsenal of hand grenades, firearms and gun magazines. The astonished screening personnel immediately contacted the police, who determined that the arsenal was made up of air-compressed weapons. Reminder #2: air guns and weapons – even real ones – can be placed in checked baggage, as long as they are properly packaged and registered with your air carrier.
In Winnipeg, screening officers saw a James Bond-style weapon in a passenger’s checked baggage. They could have called Q, but they decided to call the police, which turned out to be the right decision as it was determined that the weapon was a prohibited belt buckle gun loaded with four live bullets.
Screening officers in Montreal were left scratching their heads when they observed what appeared to be (or not to be?) human skulls in a passenger’s bag. After further investigation and additional verification, it was confirmed that the items were indeed human skulls and the passenger had legitimate reasons to travel with them.
Every day, screening officers are under the gun. This was particularly true in Montreal when they observed the image of a rifle in a passenger’s carry-on bag. Police immediately arrived at the scene and, after some questioning, discovered that the weapon had been properly stored and registered as checked baggage with the air carrier, but was then moved to the passenger’s carry-on bag by mistake when he was later “rifling” through his things.