Security Screening at Airports

The intrepid and resourceful Travelling Gourmet TM explains what Security Screening is all about so you can…

MAKE your way to your flight seamlessly with minimum hassle and inconvenience.

What are they looking for in a Security Screening?



Sharp Scissors

Box Cutters


X-ray of a bag containing a gun Stock Photo

Xray image of a Beretta 92FS 9mm in a bag


Having travelled far and wide on special assignment I can let you know that there are three components needed for any IED ot Improvised Explosive Device:

  1. Triggering mechanism – This is what sets off the bomb. There are lots of ways to go about it from what I understand. It could be a timer, or something pressure sensitive, or via some remote radio signal, etc. The key thing we need to know is that triggering mechanisms are generally electronic.

2. Detonator – A detonator is a usually small amount of highly volatile explosive material that is easily lit off and provides the boost to detonate the main explosive charge.

3. The main explosive itself – The main explosive is some compound that is relatively stable so that it can be transported in high enough quantities to cause a significant explosion when ignited by a detonator. Explosives come in a variety of different materials and densities from liquids through to solids. Quite often plastic explosive like C4.

Because all three of these things need to be present in a bomb, we can use this info to pack our luggage so that it is obviously not a danger and is more quickly screened and cleared by TSA and other Airport Security Screening especially by X Ray.

X-Ray Screening of carry on luggage

The primary luggage screening tool typically is some sort of x-ray machine. So when we pack luggage we should think about it in terms of how the stuff we are packing might look to an x-ray machine on the monitor.

When I talk about “how things look” here, I mean how do they appear on  the monitor screen when viewed with some type of x-ray machine.

Potential Triggers

Here are some common suitcase items that could potentially be seen as triggering device components:

Personal electronics
Hair driers
Curling Irons
Electric Razors

Connecting cables and wires
Battery chargers


Mobile phones
Basically when it comes to triggering mechanisms and their components we’re talking about anything that is electronic or electrical.

Camera tripods and selfie sticks can also look like gun barrels on the X ray machine

Explosive Material Look-a-likes

There are a lot of things that often get packed in our suitcases that have similar densities to potential explosive materials. Here are some of the more common items we’re talking about:

Shoes (especially shoe soles)
Hair care products
Paper reports
Food stuffs (like peanut butter for example)

Cakes like Durian Kueh – a type of cake made from the Durian fruit. It looks like C4 platique.

Fruit Cakes
The list is pretty long, so I’ve just included some of the more obvious ones. Basically we’re talking about anything that has a density of a liquid, gel, paper or soft plastic.

Strategic Packing

If there is nothing in our suitcase that could be a component of a trigger that is right next to or physically touching anything that might be the same consistency of a potential explosive then our bag can usually be cleared automatically by one of the TSA machines without needing to be opened up by one of the TSA employees.

The key is to pack your suitcase in such a way that we keep anything that might appear to be a triggering device physically separated from anything that might be mistaken for explosive material. That means we need to keep some distance in our luggage between our consumer electronics and electrical devices and any of those things which has a similar density to potential explosives.

Fortunately we can use our clothes to pack in between them and provide that physical separation. In the TSA screening machines clothes are obviously not either component so you can use your clothes to provide the physical separation you want to expedite the screening process.

If you follow these tips your Security Screening should be hassle free!

About thetravellinggourmet

As a renowned Travel, Food & Wine Writer he has travelled the world in a keen & indomitable pursuit of exotic delicacies & fine wines. His articles have been published in over 20 prestigious publications, both local & international. Dr. Lim has toured and trained in Wine Evaluation & Oenology in most of the world's top wine producing areas from France to Australia. The Travelling Gourmet says, "Gastronomy has no frontier. These are the gastronomic voyages of The Travelling Gourmet. My unending mission. To explore strange new cuisines, to seek out new wines and new culinary experiences, to boldly go where no gourmet has gone before...." Have pen, will travel. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any other information storage & retrieval system, without permission from Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling Gourmet and/or MSN. Material may be works of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents may be true but may also be products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance whatsoever to actual person or persons, either dead or living, events, or locales may be entirely and purely coincidental and unintentional. No part of this website may be used to villify others or for criminal purposes. Interests: Travel, Food, Wines, Cooking, Wine Appreciation, Parachuting, Languages, Music, Reading, Swimming, Hunting, Ballet, Fencing, Archery, Anthropology and more... The Travelling Gourmet is a copyrighted trademark. All rights and photos reserved. No part may be reproduced without permission.
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