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Old 05-17-2020, 05:33 PM   #1
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Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: NJ
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Default International Travel with Blackwood Bagpipes

Has anybody any recent experience/advice on international travel with African blackwood bagpipes? To be clear, I want to keep questions of ivory out of the equation.

I am just wondering how the situation is presently with African blackwood, particularly regarding the changes in the CITES regulations in the past few years. Is it permissible to travel internationally with the instrument, so long as it weighs less than 10 kg? With the instrument within the weight limit, does one still need some kind of documentation?

I am curious about travel from the US to Brazil, if you happen to have specific tips about this, by the way. General international travel advice is equally welcome!

Thank you!
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Old 05-17-2020, 05:42 PM   #2
el gaitero
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Default Re: International Travel with Blackwood Bagpipes

Originally Posted by Glpiper View Post
, by the way. General international travel advice is equally welcome!

Thank you!
All other tips considered,...ensure you’ve got them packed for hand carry-on. You do not want to be surprised and have to check them in.
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Old 05-17-2020, 09:35 PM   #3
Holy smoking keyboard!
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Default Re: International Travel with Blackwood Bagpipes

Most countries now have no issue with blackwood so long as it a finished musical instrument. One set of bagpipes (with under 10kg of wood) was never an issue so long as carried with you.
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Old 05-18-2020, 06:38 PM   #4
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Location: North America
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Default Re: International Travel with Blackwood Bagpipes

Greetings, Glpiper, and to All,

My regular pipes, my Old First Set... are ABW
1916 Lawries... played with their 1916 Starck
ABW chanter. (Bought new same time/place.)

I have traveled extensively with them... all over
North America... the Polynesian Pacific... seven
nations in Europe... the Caribbean... and Central

Now... I haven't the foggiest as to what they may
be worth... in actual money... but to me... they are...
priceless!! :) (And others feel the same about theirs. :)

And now... we come to getting on... the planes... :)

First: They are always with me. I never check them.

Second: I get into the plane as early as possible...
so that I can place them in an overhead bin... that
is in a direct... line-of-sight... with my seat. :)

Third, and more general: I always take the "sharp
bits" out of the pipe case... and put those in with
my uniform and other kit and gear... that is in
with the other luggage that I am taking with me.

Mainly... when your hand-held carry-on pipe case
is opened... for inspection... as it surely shall be...
if... the inspecting agent hasn't th' foggiest... as to
what is before them... just be friendly... and explain...
and all... shall be well... :)

In decades of doing this (Gads!! Has it been that long?! :)...
I've only had one potential bollix... which was years ago...
in The States... and a young new agent... started to reach
into the case to (I think) take one of the drones apart.... I
(gently :) put my hand on his arm and explained that I
would happily take all of it apart... if he wished... but that
it was... in some ways... a delicate musical instrument...
and so it would be best... to avoid mishap... and a lot of
paperwork... if he would allow... me... to do it. :)

Fortunately... an older supervisor suddenly appeared...
and commended the young (new) agent on his quick
eye... explained that they were just a set of bagpipes...
and sent me on my way. :)

You're going to meet a lot of new people... and have a
really grand time(!!)... just keep your eye... on the case!! :)

In that "new people" and "grand time"... on more than one
jaunt through so many airports... people have seen the case...
and damned if they ain't asked me for a tune!! And, so... there
being no harm to it... I've played a bit... and shared a coffee...
or a pint... when there was time... and maybe even interested
someone in learning how to play!!

Mainly!!... Where ever you're going... have a grand time of it!! :)

Bon Chance!!.. et... Bon Voyage!!,


My friends all know,
With what a brave carouse...

Last edited by Pip01; 05-18-2020 at 06:46 PM.
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Old 05-18-2020, 09:00 PM   #5
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Default Re: International Travel with Blackwood Bagpipes

I went through the airports of Tampa, Florida; Miami, Florida; Dallas / Ft Worth; Charlotte; Pittsburgh; MacDill Air Force Base; Kansas City; and Guatemala City, Guatemala in the past few months, and did not have any problems with getting through Customs or TSA with my pipes - and they were either in a Pelican 1510 or a Samsonite hard shell carry on case when I traveled.

As you watch your pipes go through the x-ray machine, unless the agent is sleeping, you can see their eye brows raise...it is actually quite entertaining. In three instances, as soon as I walked up to the agent, before passing through screening, I told the agent that I was traveling with my pipes and that is what they might see and that may look strange when it pops up on the screen. The screening TSA agent looked over his shoulder and told the guy, who by then had called over another two agents to have a look, "They're bagpipes"...and the three agents looking at the screen all went, "Cool!" ...and sent me on my way, with out even opening the cases.

Be prepared - never say never. On another note, without going into my previous life's work, I don't recommend you place your hands on an agent, but simply tell them, "hey, I play the bagpipes, so if you happen to see a few tube like objects in my case, those tubes are the wooden parts of my bagpipes" - the very most you are likely to have to do is open your case, so that the agents can get a visual, and go "Oh, cool...I have never seen a bagpipe in real life." - and then they will likely send you on your way.

I lived in Sao Paulo, Brazil as a boy, while in boarding school. Never had a problem then...I can't imagine it would be now. Again, I imagine the most interest that you will encounter is a curious agent. Pipes have become more popular in Brazil. There are actual Brazilian Military units which now have pipes.

I have traveled to a few international places with my ABW pipes. No issues; would not think that you will have any either.

Safe travels!

Last edited by Army.Bagpiper; 05-18-2020 at 09:06 PM.
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Old 06-13-2020, 06:48 PM   #6
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Default Re: International Travel with Blackwood Bagpipes

I traveled to Scotland and back a year ago with my pipes and didn't have a lick of trouble. I made multiple copies of all my documents including my certificate for the blackwood. I had two separate copies besides the original plus two more left behind with family members just in case. I was never, once asked for it. I even forgot to put the T-zip in with my other stuff in the quart ziplock bag. I removed all sharp and pointy things and those went into checked luggage. Scissors too, although I could have had them in there, I didn't want that to hold me up in any way.

Strangely, I had more inspections because of the bags of M&M's . I could only surmise they looked like explosive ordnance. I think I did have to open my pipe case once and they looked at a specific area.

I agree with direct line of sight. Never allow it to be checked. If asked, declare it a delicate musical instrument and suggest that small children be checked instead. Hold tightly onto it and tell them you aren't afraid to use it.
Sent from my top secret satellite. Don't look up there, you won't see it.
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Old 06-13-2020, 09:05 PM   #7
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Default Re: International Travel with Blackwood Bagpipes

Not sure if CITES for ABW was a thing these years, but I lived in Germany from 2016 to 2018 with frequent travel back to the states. I brought my ABW set back and forth each time and only once had the German airport security open the pipe case for a further inspection. Never had an issue with TSA while heading back out.

I've actually had more questions and inspections from TSA while flying domestic, but never CITES related.
"Bagpipes? I dare ya." - true story how I started in piping.
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Old 06-13-2020, 09:54 PM   #8
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Default Re: International Travel with Blackwood Bagpipes

Took my pipes to Scotland in 2017 for the Worlds. No problems. In fact, the worst problem anyone in my whole band had was getting overbooked, and stuck in Newark Airport for 24 hours...
First time I flew with my pipes, I also had a set of smallpipes AND my Fagerstrom in the pipe bag. Ok, now imagine a bunch of tube shaped objects of various sizes, plus wires and a battery in another tube.... Got some strange looks that time. I did offer to play for them to prove that they were a musical instrument, but they politely declined...
"Your Honor, I solemnly swear I am up to no good"
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Old 06-15-2020, 08:39 PM   #9
Stephanie Allen
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Default Re: International Travel with Blackwood Bagpipes

Originally Posted by Linz View Post
I did offer to play for them to prove that they were a musical instrument, but they politely declined...
My brother was once asked at airport security to play his bassoon. He asked if they wanted to hear anything special.... it could have gone a lot worse!
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Old 06-16-2020, 06:58 AM   #10
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Default Re: International Travel with Blackwood Bagpipes

I've lived in São Paulo for three years now and have traveled back and forth to Canada at least once a year, always bringing some parts or whole pipes in checked luggage or as carryon (depending on the vintage!) on the flights.

I've never had anyone even ask (airports include both in SP, Detroit, Ottawa, Toronto).
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