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Airline Travel with Film © 2004 Ken Rockwell

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I take this for granted, since this is all so obvious to me since I travel so much.

I see a lot of Internet chatter amongst people who don't fly much who are afraid of their film being destroyed by airport X rays.

This one is easy, so let me explain.

There are really only two rules here:


If you ask very nicely maybe the folks will look at your film without X-raying it, but honestly the X-ray scanners in the US and Europe don't damage film. Don't worry about it. I don't.

Even ten years ago I asked to have some extra film I had while returning from a trip to the UK scanned repeatedly. We ran it through the scanner about TEN times before we got bored. I shot identical sheets of film that were X-rayed and not X-rayed and there was no difference.

Now beware if you shoot fast fillm like T-Max 3200 or have to go through many xray stations (it adds up just like any other exposure) or leave the developped world. In these cases it may be worth your while to ask very nicely and see if yu can avoid xrays. if you bother with this be sure to have your film in clear ziplocks so people can see what it is right away.

So why do people hear stories about film being damaged? Simple, some people are ignoring rule two:


The luggage is sometimes scanned by very powerful X rays, or worse, the InVision Technologies CTX 2500, CTX 5000, CTX 5500, CTX 5500DS and CTX 9000DSi Computed Tomography based scanners. These destroy film, plain and simple, as you can read at InVision Technologies' website which says "CTX ... systems ... damage undeveloped film of any speed, whether positive (slides) or negative (prints), color or black and white."

The film you have heard about being damaged was checked. Don't do that!

InVision is happy that they have sold a great deal more of these scanners to the FAA as announced in a press release 12 December 2001, therefore more and more checked film will be zapped. Of course developed film is perfectly safe.

So, have a great trip and just make sure to carry your film with you!

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