Can You Bring Magnets On a Plane?
Neodymium magnets, a type of Rare Earth magnet, are some of the strongest magnets known. Given their pull capacity, you may wonder if neodymium magnets can be taken on a plane without affecting the plane in any way. Do they interfere with the plane’s navigation? Are there rules prohibiting travelers from including neodymium magnets in their travel boxes? This article covers all you need to know about traveling with neodymium magnets.
Are Magnets Allowed on a Plane?
Yes. Magnets can be packed in carry-on bags while planning a flight. Magnetic toys, which occupy children’s attention during a flight, can be used on a plane with no inconvenience. These toys possess a low magnetic field and will not interfere with the airplane’s navigation or signal reception.
Generally, small magnets are considered non-harmful; the Transportation Security Administration suggests that passengers can bring most magnet types on a plane, as they are not considered dangerous goods. Yes, magnet owners may be subjected to search and scan at the discretion of airport officials. Still, these procedures are not to alarm passengers or disallow the inclusion of magnets in a passenger’s luggage.
If you intend to purchase magnetic objects or destination magnets before boarding, you don’t have to worry about their possible effects on your plane. As with many other items, airport officials may opine that the magnetic material looks questionable and doesn’t belong on a plane. This is solely the official’s decision and not an overall representation of the regulations regarding magnets on flights.
Is It Safe to Bring Strong Magnets On a Plane?
Imagine a search and scan scenario where officials must go through every passenger’s luggage, questioning every magnetic material. That would result in peak tension from all parties.
To prevent unfriendly exchanges due to magnets in your luggage, you should inspect the magnets in your possession before onboarding. Very strong magnets should not be taken on a plane as they can cause a disaster with the plane or with other cargoes.
Once a magnet crosses the threshold of the acceptable magnetic field, you want to reconsider bringing them on a plane. Some strong magnets with flight risks include:
- Rare earth magnets: These magnets are considered dangerous as they can interfere with the plane’s navigation due to their strong magnetic field. For a flight, they must be packaged in specially designed boxes to suppress the effect of their magnetic pull.
- Neodymium magnets: Neodymium magnets have a strong magnetic pull and an even more substantial shattering effect. They can cause bodily harm and must be handled with care on a plane.
- Industrial magnets: Though these magnets are widely used, including in generators and windmills, they must be handled by trained individuals during a flight. Their magnetic field can adversely interfere with a plane’s navigation.
If your magnet can easily stick to the body of a refrigerator, it is safe to bring it along on a plane. Stronger magnets, however, aren’t always a friendly option for flights.
How to Transport Strong Magnets On a Plane?
If the strong magnets are small, they can be transported through carton boxes. Cushion the boxes with soft materials to absorb the impact of locomotion on the magnets before placing the magnets in the box. Large-size strong magnets must be encased before bringing them on a plane.
Given their high field strength, neodymium magnets can interfere with the navigational features of a plane. The magnetic field strengths of all neodymium magnets should be measured to gauge their interference capacities. This measurement is calculated in milligauss using an air shipment milligauss meter.
Should the obtained measurement meet or exceed the threshold set by the International Air Transportation Association (IATA), such mag
nets are prohibited from onboarding.
The ideal field strength for a strong magnet measured by an air shipment milligauss meter is 5.25 milligauss at 7 ft. If a neodymium magnet reads the same milligauss at 15 ft away, the magnet is too strong to transport as it is considered a flight risk. Before shipping, magnets in the former measurement category must be labeled as ‘magnetized material.’
Asides from a milligauss meter, a magnet’s milligauss can be read using a finely calibrated compass.
- Using a Milligauss Meter
An air shipment milligauss meter (also be called oersted meter) measures changes in a magnetic field. Oersted meters do not detect static fields, so the results are spontaneous. The magnets in question should be kept at a moderate distance from the meter, with opposite poles side by side, to decrease the overall field strength of the magnets.
The positioning of the magnets influences the reading obtained on the oersted meter. If stacked atop one another, the magnets exert a cumulative magnetic field strength that surpasses the threshold given by the IATA. Thus, when shipping these magnets, they must be arranged with unlike poles touching each other to reduce the field strength.
- Using a Compass
A magnet with a 5-milligauss magnetic field will move an ordinary compass by two degrees. Set up the magnets illustrated when using a milligauss meter. To achieve a reduced magnetic field strength, opposite poles should be arranged to touch each other.
It is also possible to measure the magnetic field strength or induction of a material using an electronic device. An Arduino microcontroller, an open-source software, can read a magnet’s magnetic field when connected to a sensor. Relative to the cost of obtaining a milligauss meter, this third option is cheaper and easily accessible. However, setting up the microcontroller may require some technical know-how.
Isolating Magnetism of Neodymium Magnets
With shielding materials, the magnetism of neodymium materials can be isolated to prepare them for shipping. This follows the principle of high-frequency magnetic field shielding. A soft magnetic sheet, typically iron sheets, is used to deflect the magnetic field of packaged neodymium magnets.
The package is layered with the selected magnetic sheets. The neodymium magnets are kept at the center of the box to facilitate a steady ‘weakening’ of the magnetic field. The magnets are crated with foams to keep them stable during shipping. The iron sheets demagnetize the neodymium magnets, keeping their induction below the required threshold.
The induced magnetic field isn’t blocked or stripped. Demagnetization occurs as the shielding material diverts the magnetic field distribution of the magnets. Without the iron sheets, the neodymium magnets will induce magnetic lines that leak through the box and interfere with the environment. The iron sheets keep these lines concentrated in the box, and thus magnetic interference is prevented.
Do Planes Use Magnets?
Several airplane parts use magnets or magnetic effects, including solenoids, motors, compasses, and generators. The magnetic compass is a trusted route advisor and
provides navigational direction for an airplane.
A compass card calibrated up to 360 tiers is conne
cted to the outer casing of the magnetic compass, made of neodymium magnets. Shifts in the position of the magnets
correspond to movements across the face of the compass card.
Magnets have served navigation purposes for decades; their strong magnetic fields induce lines against magnetic poles located near the earth’s center. Data from magnetic field navigation has proven more reliable than GPS, which uses satellite navigation.
Rubber and hook magnets can also be found on a plane. These magnets, alongside neodymium magnets, are used in tasks such as navigation, generation of electricity, and relaying information.
How Magnets and Phone Signals Affect a Plane?
Above ground, phone signals bounce from tower to tower and relay stronger signals, capable of interfering with the internal navigating system of a plane. Although these signals are not so potent as to cause a plane crash, they can complicate the navigation process for pilots during critical stages of a flight, including take-off and touch-down. In the absence of an emergency, cell phones should be kept in flight mode before a plane departs the airport.
Like cell phone signals, neodymium magnets alter a plane’s compass readings. You can test this by rubbing a strong magnet against your phone. Continuous contact between the two will weaken the phone’s internal magnetic field. Is this harmful to the phone? Unlikely so.
However, an error in the compass’s calibration can affect apps that rely on an accurate internal compass reading for effective functioning. Google Maps uses a phone’s internal compass to gauge a phone’s orientation and direction.
This effect can be extended to a plane’s magnetometer—interference with the reading results in off-course navigation. You don’t want to risk disrupting your flight route by onboarding with unchecked neodymium magnets.
If handled without caution, neodymium magnets can complicate a flight experience. Prevent this by measuring the magnetic induction of your magnets using an oersted meter or a compass. Above the accepted limit? Package the magnets with soft magnetic sheets to deflect their magnetic lines towards the center of the packaging material.
Eliminate flight risks when you prepare ready-for-shipping magnets. If shipping isn’t feasible for select strong magnets, consider using a ground courier service.
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