Tag: aviation law

The 10 most unusual objects confiscated by airport security officers

The 10 most unusual objects confiscated by airport security officers

The most interesting thing about airports is the variety of people and cultures that you can find inside them. People arriving and departing from and to any country in the world. People with adventures that are just about to start or experiences that have just finished with the landing of the plane they just hopped of. Airports carry all sorts of stories and feelings all day and all night long, 24/7. It is a never-ending activity that has so many things going on, not only people speaking different languages, or practicing different religions but also different ways of dressing and even different types of objects contained in their luggage.  As all passengers normally know, not all objects are allowed through customs. There are many restrictions that most people are aware of, when it comes to travelling with luggage that contain certain items that are just not that common, but instead dangerous, sometimes even creepy and therefore prohibited on airplanes.

Here is a list of unusual, strange and even creepy objects that have been found and confiscated by customs or airport security in different airports around the world. Objects that airport personnel are still not sure why someone would carry in their luggage, or even think about achieving.

A plastic bag with 40 vacuum packed frogs

This is certainly a very odd piece of luggage content. Not only because it involves 40 animals, but also because they are vacuum packed, meaning they are already dead and someone is keeping them well packed for a very special reason. In this case that reason is rather uncertain, but still the idea of having a bag with 40 dead frogs in a suitcase it not exactly what you can call “normal”. There are regulations for the transportation of animals that are alive or dead, in every airline.

A Samurai Sword

The person who tried to get on a plane with a Samurai Sword, was handling this as an antique, not as a weapon, and since a sword is a weapon, it doesn’t matter if it’s an antique or not.

A human skull

A man was carrying a skull in his luggage while he was traveling in Italy. Carrying human parts will definitely get you in trouble at any airport, especially if you don’t have any permission or something that demonstrates the legal permits for handling it.

Dried caterpillars

The border agency officer who found these insects in the luggage of someone who had soldier luggage, was pretty shocked since the only explanation experts could find was that these insects were transported this way with the purpose of doing some kind of harm in terms of food and therefore health.

Snakes hidden in a bra

In Sweden, a woman was arrested in an airport for carrying more than 70 snakes inside her bra. Of course the snakes were not very big, but still, there are restrictions and regulations  if you want to carry animals as luggage, especially is they are alive, and even more important, when the passenger hides them inside their clothes.

A Chameleon

A girl was able to travel with her pet chameleon sitting quietly on her head, under a hat, from the Arab Emirates to the UK.

Poisonous Tarantulas

A person got his luggage confiscated after more than 40 living poisonous tarantulas were found in his luggage. The tarantulas were hidden in their clothes but they were kept in plastic containers adapted to keep them alive during the trip. This is a very dangerous kind of luggage that departed originally from Peru.

Human eyeballs

As crazy as it sounds, a jar filled with human eyeballs and some kind of liquid was found and confiscated by customs in London. This is one of the creepiest items of this list.

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Image courtesy of Fermín R.F. at Flickr.com


Even if it seems kind of impossible, a man landed in Australia with live pigeons inside of his pants. The birds were alive when they were found. They were confiscated  

An Egyptian sarcophagus

This was a very big item found in Miami Airport. It was supposed to travel in a casket so people wouldn’t easily find out what it really was. Egyptian experts that examined the piece, mentioned this piece was probably one of a group of Egyptian treasures that were stolen a century ago.

What is the aviation industry doing about climate change?

What is the aviation industry doing about climate change?

Climate change is the most important global concern of the time since life on earth, as we have known it, is being radically affected by the increase in average global temperature. This crucial issue necessarily puts pressure on every industry, and especially in aviation. Many of us have in mind a general image of airplanes, since apparently effortless, fly at extraordinary speeds carrying lots of people and their baggage for very long distances. What we usually forget is that in order to accomplish the task, they consume vast quantities of fossil fuels that are released every day into the sky, contributing dangerously to the warming of the planet. But on the other hand, the first global climate action framework from any transport sector industry was presented in 2008 by the aviation industry, which has been working since then to limit their environmental impact in the short term.

Aircraft emissions

Emission of aircraft engines could be very similar to any other kind of emissions produced by the combustion of fossil fuels, but the most important difference is that almost all of them are released at high altitudes. As stated in different studies, the CO2 and other greenhouse gases emitted in the ground by fossil fueled vehicles, remain in the atmosphere for centuries causing a warming effect. However, more powerful increases are caused by gases released by planes at high elevations, for instance, vapor trails and ozone, since those chemicals catalyze a number of reactions and atmospheric effects.

According to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), aviation global CO2 emissions are about 2% of total (724 million tones of CO2 were generated in 2014), and about 12% of the CO2 emitted from all transportation sources. From the total aviation emissions, 65% are from international and 35% for domestic flights. But carbon dioxide is not the only greenhouse gas emitted; nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, ozone, unburned hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide are also exhausted by aircraft engines. Seeing that passenger and cargo air transportation are predicted to grow more than two times the levels of 2004 before 2020, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that aviation share on global CO2 emissions will increase to more than 5% by 2050 (a worst-case scenario says 15%), due to the increasing demand from passengers, especially in emerging markets.

What is the aviation industry doing to limit its impact?

Working together on actions intended to reduce aviation emissions is a joint effort of the whole sector, including aircraft and engine manufacturers, air traffic managers, airports and airlines. Given the economic size of the industry and the importance of the contribution to the global effort of getting on the 2°C path, there are basically four main topics of action aviation is focusing on:

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Image courtesy of Roderick Eime at Flickr.com

Innovation in technology

New planes are generally 25% more efficient in fuel terms than previous one, and the planned investment in this matter for the next ten years will be more than $1 trillion. Additionally, aircraft and engine producers spend more than $15 billion yearly on efficiency research. In terms of fuel efficiency standards, a long term initiative will lead to predictable progress, for instance, the use of alternative fuels that have been tested on small scale (such as biomass or waste), which have the potential to cut almost 80% of emissions, compared to actual fuels. Lighter materials used in the construction of aircraft and changes in aerodynamic designs reduce the total weight and drag, a generally improve fuel efficiency. For instance, according to Airbus, A320 airplanes are 40% less expensive to operate than the previous model.


More efficient traffic control operations have great potential for saving emissions. These could include better traffic management procedures, reducing on-board equipment weight, using optimal ranges for aircraft trips, connecting airplanes directly to electricity sources in the ground while they are parked. For example, an in-flight method for landing called “continuous descent” flight paths, saves more than 140 kg of CO2 per trip.    


Reducing delays, shortening of flying times, controls on air traffic zones, building common air space among countries, military no- fly zones negotiations, satellite based traffic control (NextGen in the case of U.S.), are a few examples of changes that could effectively contribute to the reduction of Greenhouse Gas emissions. A good example is the design of alternative flying routes that can reduce distance and travel times, that if shortened just by one minute, could save at least 100 kg of CO2.

Market-based measures

More efficient technology and operations will take time to achieve emission targets. Economic measures need to be part of the strategy, and taxation of aviation fuel implemented through international agreements has the potential to incentivize more investment. Global measures need to focus on the internalization of carbon pollution ensuring that passengers are not taxed on multiple levels.   

So you want to be a pilot. Here’s what you should know

So you want to be a pilot. Here’s what you should know

Do you want to be a pilot? Do you know where you need to go and what you have to do? That depends on the kind of pilot that you want to be:  Commercial, private or military. Here’s how to obtain a pilot’s license so you can take to the skies aboard a plane:

What kind of pilot do you want to be?

It’s not the same to be a pilot of a commercial airliner than to be a pilot of a modern supersonic fighter. There are three basic ways of being a pilot:

  • Private pilot: The private pilot’s license is aimed at those who want to take up aviation as a hobby. In fact, one of the limitations of this license is that you can not charge for flights.
  • Professional pilot: Those who want to get involved with aviation for a living, carrying passengers from one side of the planet to another, must obtain this license.
  • Military pilot: To become a military pilot there is a prerequisite: you must join the army. A military pilot’s career is quite vocational, mainly because you must adapt to the disciplined military lifestyle. Of course, if you’re fond of aviation, there’s nothing better than flying modern military aircrafts.

JAR (Joint Aviation Requirements)

It’s the set of regulations, valid in all EU member states, which includes everything related to flight schools and licensing.

Private pilot

This degree is the right one for those aviation enthusiasts who want to further develop piloting as a hobby. To get it is necessary to attend a flight school, where you’ll receive instructions and preparation to actually fly a plane.

You must be at least 17 years old you must have a valid medical certificate. This license will allow you to fly any aircraft -other than those used in commercial flights- as a pilot or co-pilot.

The private pilot course has two parts, one is practical and the other one is theoretical. The first one consists of 45 hours of flight, 5 of which can be using a simulator. Out of these 45 hours, at least 25 must be with an instructor and at least 10 should be under a supervised solo flight. You must make at least one cross-country flight of 270km, stopping at two different aerodromes from the one you departed.

The theoretical part of the course will let you know matters such as aviation regulations, general knowledge of aircraft, performance and flight planning, meteorology, navigation, and others.

When you have completed the course, you’ll have to go through a final test: your first solo flight. If you are able to successfully do that, you will have earned your private pilot’s license.

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Image courtesy of liz west at Flickr.com

Professional pilot

If you want a career in aviation, obtaining a professional pilot’s permit is the most basic requirement. This degree will allow you to fly commercial aircrafts, freight planes, firefighting planes and so on.

To get the title you must be at least 18 years old and have a valid medical certificate.

You have the possibility of obtaining a degree as a professional pilot by taking one of two types of courses: integrated and modular. The integrated course is done all at once, whereas the modular one can be made by modules (as is evident by its name), and it might be a little more expensive.

The integrated course includes a minimum of 150 hours of flight. The modular course, on the other hand, includes at least 200 hours of flight.

Out of the total number of flight hours that a student makes, be it on an integrated or a modular course, it is required that between 70 and 100 of those have been executed as a pilot in command; a total of 20 hours of cross-country flight as a pilot in command including a trip of at least 540 kilometers, stopping at two different aerodromes; 10 hours of instrument instruction, of which no more than 5 may be on land; and finally 5 hours of night flight.

Whoever wishes to become a commercial pilot should also take a theoretical course which includes at least 500 hours of instruction in which the applicant is taught about areas such as aviation legislation, general knowledge of aircraft, meteorology, and navigation, among others.

Having completed the course, the student must take the final test: a solo flight that, if successfully completed, will give him or her the professional pilot license.

Type Ratings

If you become a private or commercial pilot you will be able to fly a certain type of aircraft. If you want to go deeper in your work as a pilot and fly larger and faster planes, this will require you to obtain a Type Rating. This is basically an authorization that a pilot gets to fly more complex machines, depending on their number of engines, propulsion, crew size and several other aspects.

For example, someone who has a title of private pilot is entitled to fly single engine airplanes with a maximum takeoff weight of 1500 kg. To fly a twin-engine aircraft, the conditions would vary. The same applies to commercial pilot’s licenses. Initially, a pilot who has just obtained his degree, can only carry a maximum of 19 passengers on an aircraft.

The treaty that opened up the skies of the world

The treaty that opened up the skies of the world

The Treaty on Open Skies came into effect on January 1st 2002 and it was joined by 34 countries. It establishes a program of unarmed aerial surveillance flights above the territory of all the participating countries. It was designed to improve the understanding and trust among all participants, regardless of their size, through the gathering of information about military operations that might affect them.

The treaty is one of the greatest international efforts in order to achieve military transparency. The concept of mutual aerial observation was proposed initially to the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR Nikolai Bulganin, by the President of the United States Dwight Eisenhower in the Geneva Convention of 1955. However, the Soviets quickly rejected the idea that remained latent for years. Finally an agreement was made by initiative of President and former director of the Central Intelligence Agency George H. W. Bush in 1989. Negotiated by the then members of the NATO and the Warsaw Pact, it was signed in Helsinki, Finland, on March 24th 1992. The United States ratified it in 1993. This treaty is independent from any other civil open skies agreement.


The 34 states that are members of the Treaty are: Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and United States. Kyrgyzstan has signed but not yet ratified. Canada and Hungary are the depositaries of the treaty in recognition of their special contribution to the process, this means that they hold the documents of the treaty and provide administrative help.

The duration is limited and the adhesion to it from other countries is allowed. The former Soviet republics are not member states but they can have access to the treaty whenever they want to. Entry requests of new countries are studied by the Open Skies Consultative Commission or OSCC, which should reach a consensus for its approval. This commission is based on Vienna, and it is in charge of facilitating the implementation of the treaty and all of the member states belong to it. Eight States have joined the treaty since it was constituted: Finland, Sweden, Latvia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Estonia, and Lithuania.

Basic components of the treaty


Recognition planes have video cameras and photograph cameras to be used during the day, infrared scanners and radars. The quality of the photos should allow the location of installations and military equipment, for instance being able to distinguish between a tank and a truck, thus reaching a significant transparency on military activities. The functionalities of the sensors can be augmented and improved through agreements between the Member States. All the sensors used on planes effect should be available for any of the signatories in a commercial way. The resolution of the images is limited to 30 centimeters.


The observation planes can belong to the observing member or they can be provided by the observed country (also known as “taxi” modality) and the latter is able to make a choice on the matter. All the planes to be used as well as the sensors they can incorporate should go through specific tests and previous inspections to ensure that they are up to the standards of the treaty. For instance, the United States uses The OC-135B open skies, which is a military version of the Boeing 707.

Canada uses a Lockheed C-130 Hercules equipped with the “SAMSON” sensor system, which is installed on a specially modified fuel compartment. This system is operated by a consortium formed by Belgium, Canada, Spain, France, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Holland and Portugal. The costs of maintenance of the SAMSON pod are shared based on the use that each country makes of it.

Spouse Flight
Image courtesy of Offutt Air Force Base at Flickr.com


The open skies regime covers the territory over which the Member States exercise their sovereignty, including islands, land, and internal and territorial waters. The treaty specifies that all of the territory of a member state is open for observation. Observation flights can only be restricted by security reasons for the crew and not for reasons of national security.


Each Member State is obligated to accept a certain amount of observation flights, which is known as a passive quota. The active quota, instead, is the number of flights they can send and it must coincide with the first one. During the three years following the entry to the treaty, each state receives at a maximum 65% of the flights marked by their passive quota. For instance, given the fact that the annual passive quota of the United States is 42 flights, during those three years it could only receive 31 flights per year. In 2005, the United States received two observation flights from the group of member states of Russia and Belarus. The United States have the right to make 8 yearly flights of the 31 that the group can receive. Besides, it shares with Canada the possibility of making one annual observation flight to the Ukraine.

Things you need to know about in-flight Internet connectivity in the U.S.

Things you need to know about in-flight Internet connectivity in the U.S.

When we see crowded airports across the United States, we also presence masses of people that crave to stay connected. Connectivity is a widespread aspect of modern times, where Wi-Fi spots abound everywhere: in cafes, public buildings, buses, trains, airports. Internet is all around us, and we want even more. And more means checking emails, getting social network updates and browsing, and all while flying. In-flight Internet access is getting more common since it is regarded by airlines as a great opportunity to increase their income. As stated on one of the most prominent air travel analytics website, Routehappy, airlines Internet coverage in the United States is 78% of available seat miles, unlike non U.S. companies with coverage of just 24% of available seat miles. A key responsible for these numbers in the United States is Gogo (a company which founded in-flight Internet industry in 2008), which is present in nearly 72% of every commercial airplane that offers the service.

Current in-flight Internet experiences will vary depending on the airline you are flying with. You could either watch your favorite series in Netflix with practically no interruptions or get extremely frustrated unsuccessfully trying to upload a file your boss needs urgently. This basically depends on the type of connection the airplane uses (it could be either from orbiting satellites above or ground cell towers from below), and the type of antennas it is equipped with. Having this in mind, connection speeds varies from 3 Mbps up to 70 Mbps of shared capacity, not only sharing with the other passengers, also from the planes that fly through the same airspace. In terms of money you could end up spending from $10 to $30 for the whole flight time on a very low speed Internet connection or the opposite, when airlines offer free Internet at speeds close to 10 Mbps, without content restrictions.

Different in-flight Internet providers in the United States

Gogo: as mentioned before, Gogo is in almost 72% of every commercial carrier offering the in-flight service. The initial idea behind Gogo is that executive travelers will pay any price to work while flying, since bills are paid by their employers. The company relies mainly on ground cell towers, but has started using satellite technology for greater speeds.

ViaSat: the company redefines in-flight connectivity since they have Ku-based satellite services, providing amounts of bandwidth that let everyone use the Internet without any shortage in capacity. Another big difference is the way they sell the service. Gogo charge passengers and gives the airlines an amount. Viasat charge the airline and it is up to them to transfer the cost to the final users. ViaSat’s main U.S. customer is JetBlue.

GEE: Global Eagle Entertainment uses Ku-band satellites. It supports a bandwidth close to 40 Mbps total, with usual restrictions due to network sharing. GEE powers Southwest, and they charge $8 per day for the access.    

Panasonic eXConnect: also uses Ku-band satellites to deliver broadband connectivity to aircraft. As seen on seat-back screens, Panasonic is in the hardware business, so the company funds the cost of Internet connectivity to the airlines they have a contract with. The company buys more capacity from satellites than the others, so their service is also faster.  

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Image courtesy of jqpubliq at Flickr.com

Airlines Internet providers and general costs

Alaska (provider: Gogo). Almost total availability on the 48 states, as well as specific areas of Alaska. Rates vary depending on your preferences: all-day passes will be $16, hour passes $5 and a Multi-Airline pass per month $59.95.

American (provider: Gogo). They say availability on their flights is almost total. Prices as discussed before.  

Delta (provider: Gogo). Check for availability on your flight on the booking process. Prices as discussed before.

Frontier (provider: Gogo). Only available when flying on its Embraer 190. Prices as discussed before.

Hawaiian (not currently available)

JetBlue (provider: ViaSat). Free on every plane, for checking emails and simple web browsing. A $9 per-hour plan is available for movie streaming with up to 12 Mbps.

Southwest (provider: GEE). Available on more than 400 planes. $8 per day  and additional $5 per movie. Travelers using iMessage cant text at $2.

Spirit (not currently available)

United (provider: Gogo). Available on some flights. Currently changing to satellite in-flight Wi-Fi. Fees are established during booking.

Virgin America (provider: Gogo). Available on all flights within U.S. Prices as discussed before.

In conclusion, paying more is not a guarantee of an adequate connection while you fly. However, the tendency for the foreseeable future is that in-flight connectivity is becoming faster and more reliable since better aircraft are available. While Internet is a modern necessity, competition among companies will necessarily force them to try to stand out from the others, then, providing a good quality in-flight service could be very helpful.