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TSA and GPS's

My son told me that TSA is questioning passengers with GPS's in their carry on. Anyone heard about this?

Posted by
6898 posts

No. We take our Magellan GPS with us on many of our U.S. domestic flights. We've never been challenged. Not a problem.

Posted by
57 posts

I have brought my GPS on planes over the last few years, but only on domestic flights. (I am an avid geocacher). I have asked the Flight Attendant if I could use it while in-flight and they said sure! Never a problem and a lot of fun! You can tell exactly where you are. I did bring it on a flight to Europe three years ago in my carry-on, but I didn't turn it on. There were no questions by TSA at that time.

Posted by
368 posts

GPS devices in general do not broadcast signals at all as they only receive from satellites. Some of them have Bluetooth out for phones, etc. but I believe that is fine on an aircraft. Keeping that in mind, you should be able to use them on an plane if you can get them to find a satellite to use. Have a friend that used one on a plane once and it clocked him at 1000+ km an hour!

Posted by
345 posts

Thanks everyone. This all makes sense, but I couldn't figure whether it because it was a GPS, or because it was an electronic device that was "out of the norm."

Posted by
808 posts

Honestly, I'm not up on GPS. I know that my Dad just bought one and it came with a CD for North America. So wouldn't you have to have one for Europe if abroad? Again, I know next to nothing about these devices...(But can't wait for Dad to take me out and teach me!)

I'd imagine it would be standard procedure to have to turn it on and off at Airport screening to prove that it is operational.
I'm sure it would be subject to all Federal Regulations similar to the use of cell phones...such as switched off for critical phase of flight etc. I've probably seen them and just thought they were cell phones or something.

If Sue asked the American F/A and they were ok with it then they would have the final word on it. I don't recall ever being asked...YET!! I'm sure some Pax had them but never drew my attention to it.

Posted by
345 posts

I looked all over the TSA web site and couldn't find anything about GPS's per se. My GPS has both North America and Europe maps pre-installed.

I asked the question because we will be flying to Munich this month and renting a car. Naturally, I am bringing my GPS and I don't want to pack it in checked baggage.

One could imagine, I guess, how this devise could be used for negative purposes, but so could alot of other electronic devices.

Posted by
15528 posts

F/A...FYI....there's a GPS unit up in the flight deck. It's built into the panel.

Posted by
180 posts

I took my Garmin GPS on multiple domestic flights and never got asked about it, and never even got asked to search my carry on. It just went through x-ray with no problem.

Posted by
850 posts

I took my tomtom 910 on the plane last May and during the trip I decided to turn it on and do some preplanning of my route. Some folks were already asleep and as I was entering routes in the gps ol' Susan, my gps lady, blurts out something in her loud voice (don't remember what) much to the chagrin I am sure of the other passengers. I decided I best turn that thing off before someone complained. So I did.

Posted by
9363 posts

A GPS couldn't interfere with navigational equipment. It doesn't send signals, it only receives them. I'm looking forward to taking mine to Spain this year (I have a TomTom with John Cleese's voice).

Posted by
12172 posts

After some personal experience driving in Italy and reading advice from this site, I bought a TomTom 920 to use here and on trips to Europe (930 model comes out later this month, so good deals to be had on 920's). It arrived yesterday so I still need to learn how to use it.

GPS is okay for carry on. You can bring a laptop, PDA or Blackberry too. I always take electrical devices out of my bag and put them in a bin for inspection. It's possible the passengers weren't pulling them out of their carry on, which might cause TSA some concern.

The biggest problem is not all TSA officers view every item the same. It's maddening as a traveler to deal with seemingly random standards. The silver lining is it's probably safer from a security standpoint for TSA to be unpredictable.

Posted by
57 posts

When I have used my GPS on an airplane, I did have to be in the window seat and I also had to hold the GPS next to the window to get any signal. My GPS is one that is typically used in the out-of-doors - not the type that is designed for car usage, although it can map me to destinations with turn by turn directions. When on the plane it shows where I am, the airspeed, altitude and a multitude of other things.

BTW, mine does transmit, but I shut off that feature when I boot it up on a plane. No one has ever refused my request to use it in-flight (with the exception of take-off and landing). I'm sure some have no idea what I was doing, but some of the other FA's knew what is was and commented on it. If you are curious, my GPS is a Garmin Rino 120.

Posted by
7643 posts

In reply to Kent's question, the GPS signal is less sensitive to shielding in an airplane because most of the materials are Aluminum and composites. Steel, like in a car is an issue because it will block the signals. As an example, my wifes VW "New" Beetle is mostly plastic panels so she gets a signal even if the unit is on the floor, in my truck, it has to be on the dash. Overall the signal is better in the air because the vertical position gives access to more satellites. I have seen some references to GPS units and using them on planes, but most times in relation to shutting off all electronic devices on landing and take-off.

Posted by
808 posts

Up here in Canada, we are governed by CATSA which is our equivalent to the American TSA.

As with all electronic devices, you may be asked at Security screening to turn it on and off to prove that it is operational and not something more sinister. I guess some slide through undetected but that's not supposed to happen.

Just like the American F/A told Sue, they are in fact, permitted for use on board the Aircraft, no problem. I guess that could explain why there was no mention of restriction in our Safety Procedures Manual. We get safety updates regularily so I'm sure the next update will include GPS so there is no question about it.

I've seen the GPS in operation in the Flight Deck. Yet another wonder of wonders! And isn't the live Route map in the Cabin connected with it?

That's really neat! I'm glad we talked about this! Must ask to see one next time if I find an agreeable Passenger!

Posted by
7643 posts

I work for the company that developed GPS and still is the main source for Military and flight based GPS. Yes, the airplane has a GPS that it uses for navigation and even landing approaches. The moving map is another of our products and is using the same GPS signal. Most commercial units are now pretty good, older ones may not have had quick enough aquisition times to handle the speed of an airplane, but yes, it is neat technology.

Posted by
7643 posts

I'll preface this by saying this is not my true area of expertise, but I am somewhat familiar with these systems. Yes, there are multiple recievers for GPS, like any critical system, you have back-ups for back-ups (redundancy) While navigation is one of the main purposes, GPS has taken over landing approaches as well. Some early non-GPS systems for landing were radio signal based, then radar based, and now GPS based. The GPS is much more accurate, especially since they augment the signal with transmitting units at the airport, so no loss of signal from satellites. Yes planes can land in zero visibility, but again, multiple systems (besides the best one, the pilot) work together, TCAS looks for other planes, ground proximity systems monitor "solid non-moving objects", plus altimeters, and all of the planned procedures for landing. All said, amazing things can be done.

Posted by
345 posts

Since I posted this, let me say that we just returned from Germany and the GPS was never an issue with security.

AND, let me also say that the GPS was the BEST thing ever! We found hotels and attractions in Nördlingen, Dinkelsbühl, Nürnberg, and Würzburg with absolutely no probems. When we were ready to go back to our hotel, I just selected "Recently found" and selected the hotel's address and back we went!

When we were in Nürnberg, we wanted to go to the Documentation Center - I went into "Local Attractions", scrolled down until we found it, hit "Go" and off we went.

By the way, my GPS is the Garmin nüvi.