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24,711 Posts
Discussion Starter #1

I can't make out the part number of the chip, but the diodes in the upper right, the two big turquoise caps, the three smaller transformers, and all the other electros and especially the toridal inductors, looks for all the world like an older computer switching supply, which of course, would require being plugged into a 120VAC source to actually function (though it looks like it has been largely rendered non-functional).

It held upflights for up to 6 hrs at Pearson because someone thought it was a bomb. Here's the object that caused hours of delays at Pearson airport Not that people should necessarily take such things lightly, but sometimes a little bit of electronic knowledge can go a long way. A simple matter to enter the chip number and "pdf" into Google and find out what the circuit actually does.

18,563 Posts
I once saw a caption under a picture of someone checking to see how much gas was in their gas tank by looking down the fill pipe using a lighted match that said, "common sense is often the less common sense seen".

This novelty fake bomb confirms that.

4,997 Posts
I wouldn't expect a hoax bomb in one's luggage to be any less concern than yelling 'bomb' in an airport as a joke. You'd have to be a complete moron to think you'd get away with it.
Maybe he'll try to sue? ;)

24,711 Posts
Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
An article in the paper today confirmed my initial impression. They consulted an electronic engineering prof who also said it looked like a cheap Chinese backup power supply. The chip was identified as a display controller, and the board was quite obviously a commercial product, given the legending. I gather the "12A" indicates power. The fellow's wife says it was a gimmick/gag alarm clock, but I suspect that's what the husband told her because explaining a "backup switching power supply" was felt to be a little too hard.

The fact that it was a commercial product and not a one-off (as IEDs are wont to be) reduces the likelihood of it being a threat. Although the last 30 years have shown us that sometimes the malicious can be disguised as the benign, so simply waving something through would have been unwise. But there was more than a little stupidity on everyone's part here. The carrier overestimated the electronic knowledge of the baggage screeners, and the baggage screeners overestimated the threat.

Premium Member
860 Posts
It looks like the reason I sat in a loaded plane for an hour before takeoff. Also looks like something only an idiot would bring to an airport.

Premium Member
4,472 Posts
Anyone who strolls around with something that looks like a bomb these days deserves all the attention from the SWAT team.

24,711 Posts
Discussion Starter #18
I was curious about getting DIY pedals past baggage screeners without difficulties, so I wrote to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) several years ago and explained the situation to them. Here's what I wrote:

I have a technical enquiry, to which an answer would be helpful to myself and a
great many acquaintances and friends. I will pose the question below, but introduce
the nature of the subject matter first. I belong to a community of hobbyists that
make, modify, and repair special effects units ("pedals") for electric guitars and
other similar musical instruments. As is the case with many hobby enthusiasts, we
like to bring some of our handiwork along when visiting friends. In some instances,
people will attend trade shows and bring prototypes along to show others. The
devices in question will normally be situated within a small metal enclosure (to
screen out electrical interference from transformers and such), with controls
mounted on the outer surface, and contain electronic circuit boards, and usually a 9
volt battery supply. Sometimes, they look professionally made, and other times the
appearance can be somewhat amateurish, depending on the skills of the builder. If
you consult this webforum thread -
Pictures! - you will be able to
see literally thousands of examples of what I'm talking about. Of course, as
slightly unusual objects, these will no doubt elicit much closer scrutiny by
screeners, that can be intimidating to the owner of the device, and frustrating to
those behind them in line who may be delayed by such extra scrutiny. We understand
the purpose of such scrutiny, and support it. of course, that does not make it any
less uncomfortable or inconvenient. What I am wondering about is what sort of
procedure to follow when transporting such devices that might give baggage screeners
and any other security personnel the sorts of assurances of passenger/flight safety
that they need to confirm for EVERY traveller/flight, while at the same time
providing the least possible inconvenience and delay? Is there some way that any
traveller carrying such items can prepare them for easier and less disruptive
inspection, while still permitting the same rigour? For example is it preferable to
remove any batteries from the device prior to boarding? Should they be stored with
regular baggage or openly presented with carry-on? Alternatively, is the best thing
simply to avoid baggage screening completely and mail the devices ahead of time? I
ask these questions sincerely on behalf of a community of over 10,000 people
world-wide, many of whom have expressed either frustration with past experiences at
airports, or some trepidation about bringing such items with them, lest they find
themselves detained for questioning. I am sure you are aware of the many
folk-legends that abound about people being detained for hours over innocuous items.
We're just trying to find a way to balance air security, national security, and our
love of our hobby. Any simple and straightforward advice you can offer to achieve
that will be deeply appreciated. I know many of my builder friends are perhaps less
skilled at drafting such a query, so I'm hoping your reply will permit me to set
things straight for them with an authoritative reply.

Thank you in advance. Mark Hammer Ottawa

And here is what they wrote back:

Dear Mr. Hammer,

On behalf of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), we thank you for
your e-mail dated March 24, 2009 in which you enquired about traveling with special
effects units ("pedals") for electric guitars and other similar musical instruments.

CATSA plays an integral role in the Government of Canada's air security initiative.
Our mission is to protect the public by securing critical elements of the air
transportation system, including the screening of passengers and their belongings
from Canadian airports. Our mandate is to deliver a consistent, effective and
highly professional service that is set at or above the standards established by
federal regulations.

When traveling from a Canadian airport, permitted and non-permitted items are
regulated by Transport Canada and are enforced by pre-board screening officers.
According to Transport Canada regulations, electronic devices such special effects
unit for guitars are permitted in carry-on or checked baggage. As with all items in
your possession, all electronic devices must be screened when going through

In order to facilitate your passage at the pre-board screening checkpoint with such
items, we suggest the following options:

1. Sending said items by courier service is obviously the best way to avoid problems
at security checkpoints.

2. Another option is to place it in checked baggage. Ensure that the item is not
cluttered together as much as possible (i.e., remove batteries - if batteries are
lithium then they are not permitted in checked baggage- external cords and wires,
etc. and place them in distinctly different parts of the bag), and do not place
organics in the bag such as peanut butter, rubber, fruitcakes, etc.

3. If you do wish to carry these items in your carry-on baggage, declare them to a
screening officer before they go through the X-ray machine, remove them from the bag
and place them in the trays provided for screening, on their own.

If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.


Client Satisfaction / Satisfaction des clients
Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) /
Administration canadienne de la sûreté du transport aérien (ACSTA)
Toll free 1-888-294-2202 (8:30-17:00 ET)
Facsimile / télécopieur: 613-949-2725 <>

3,632 Posts
well it wouldn't be beyond the scope of belief that someone would build an explosive device to look like anything, really

including a fake explosive device

what kind of moron would bring that into an airport?

24,711 Posts
Discussion Starter #20
You can bring a lot of stuff into an airport. The key question is whether you think someone might mistake the object for something malicious. As my note above indicates, authorities are on the lookout for those things which are NOT declared or offered up for inspection.

As I'm annoyingly fond of repeating, much of the misery in the world begins with "But I was just....". The carrier knows they have no malevolent motives. However they fail to consider what others might think; particularly those whose job it is to BE suspicious of others' motives.
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