Forums > Technical Discussion > How to fly with fire equipment, my experiences and advice

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SparkfireFire coach - Cirque du Soleil
89 posts
Location: Bristol, UK

This is written up in a .doc hosted here

As some may know flying in australia with your firetoys can be frought with peril, I do not know if the below approach will work in the US with the current ridiculus situation, but i'd love some feedback if anyone finds out.

The following post is long, but worthwhile reading if you need to fly with your gear. I've always found it better to take the time to prepare, even over prepare, things in advance than to risk being on the way to a gig (or holiday) with no props.

Hi my names ......... I will be flying shortly with your airline and just wanted to supply information for some baggage I will be carrying.

Would it be possible to talk to the duty manager or supervisor who will be rostered on at the check in desk at the time of my flight?

(If not, continue, though you may have to repeat to a supervisor who will usually get a 'manifesto' or notation placed on your reservation. Double check what this note says by calling again in a couple of days, if suitable make sure it gets put on your return flight reservation too!

DO NOT ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE TRANSFERED TO 'FREIGHT' freight only deal with airmail by paid courier services. Although they will be happy to chat and confirm that your stuff isn't DG (dangerous goods) they will not be able to help. Explain that it's not freight, it will be checked in baggage.)

Let me explain the situation:
I manage a fire performance company, we have done shows in ....., ....., and across Europe and have previously flown with Quantas, Jetstar, Virgin blue, ..... and many international carriers.
Some of our equipment contains wicks which have previously been used for fire shows. We do not use kerosene or anything of that nature.
The substance (don't use the word fuel if you can help it) we use has a very high flashpoint and is actually not classed as flammable (Shellsol D60 is a class IIIA combustible as it's flash point is above 61 deg. C. same for Sarasol75) . It is transportable by normal freight and is not classed as dangerous goods. It is detergent soluble.
All our equipment has been thoroughly washed clean. There is no residue left in the wicks, no odour, and we are not carrying any container that has ever held fuel.
I am happy for staff to check the baggage at check in. If there is any odour or fuel residue detected I am happy to leave the equipment behind.
All performers will be carrying a signed statutory declaration stating that there are no dangerous goods in the baggage; we will also carry MSDS sheets to clarify the substances previously used for the performances.

I have found it helpful to provide this information in advance to avoid any misunderstandings. Obviously if we show up to our shows without our equipment it is not a good thing.

Initial call center staff may ask questions such as "does your baggage contain fire staffs" etc. Say "This is what I need to clarify, our fire performance equipment has never been used with the fuels people fire twirl with, kerosene and such, we use specific non dangerous goods fuels as we need to fly with our props."

If they mention pyrotechnics, even in passing make sure you make a point of stating "no pyrotechnics, nothing explosive, nothing of that nature"

You will usually have the hardest time with the initial call center staff. These people will try to palm you off to freight or just put you on hold and then repeat something their supervisor has said, without giving him the full story and details.
Once you get to a supervisor things are generally ok.

Do not be scared of giving them your reservation number. If you seem unwilling to give it, it doesn't help their perception of you as legitimately trying to inform, gives the impression you may try to sneak it through.

- Do not attempt to use this spiel with equipment that has ever been used with kerosene or citronella.

- Shellsol D60 actually does have a yuck leftover odour, don't use it, only use the MSDS of it as it has a high enough flashpoint to not be classed as flammable. Try to burn out with ShellSol T to make sure you get rid of any odours on equipment.

- If you've ever used another fuel you really do need to take the time to burn everything out with SolT until there is no odour left, clean up all soot and steel wool the metal. If you do want to actually wash it out remember that it can take some time for wicks to dry.

- Wrap the props up in garbage bags, tape them up and carry them in some sort of appropriate bag, courier tube, hockey stick bag etc. Be prepared to rip open the bags for the airline staff to have a 'whiff' carry some tape to re seal the rip.

-The Shellsol D60 info sheet for 'americas' has the line "In general for transport, with a flash point >61C, SHELLSOL D60 may be classified as combustible rather than as flammable liquid" I usually highlight this and either carry it on me or put copies in or stuck to the baggage. Available from,1098,646,00.html

- I also carry and stick on the equipment bags a signed statement listing that there is nothing flammable in my baggage. along the likes of....
My Luggage contains no flammable goods.
All performance equipment has been thoroughly cleaned and contains no residue of any fuel substances.
The fuel previously used on this equipment was ShellSol D60 which has a minimum flash point of 61.1 degrees Celsius. This classifies it as a combustible not a flammable liquid. MSDS attached.
I have previously flown both nationally and internationally with multiple airlines following these same procedures.

If all efforts fail you can still attempt to sneak it through. As far as I know they do not put notes on your reservation to the likes of "watch out, he'll try to bring fire sticks through".
Placing your equipment in a golf bag is a good one. When you check in they'll tell you the golf clubs need to go in the special baggage cage. "Sure". Snowboarding bags also work. These are options best used overseas where the language barrier may make all other efforts redundant (dearomatized isoparrafinic or alphiatic mineral spirit in Arabic anyone?)
Security at international airports (barring the US) seems to be a lot looser than Australia anyway, and in many countries may have no idea what fire twirling is (which could be a good or bad thing depending on the way you play it).

As a precaution put balloons over the wicks, wrap then in ribbons, clean up all metal with steel wool and if asked they are "dancing sticks" Generally you won't be questioned. If they ask "are they fire sticks" it's up to you to decide 'yes' or 'no'
I've always figured if that doesn't work I can say I just bought them from a guy and didn't realize there were wicks under the ribbons.

Good luck.
Stay light, burn bright.

mcpmcpPLATINUM Member
Flying Water Muppet
5,276 posts
Location: Edin-borrow., United Kingdom

I've been to San francisco twice now from the UK and back both times with used (kerosene) 1.5m fire staffs. I also went to vienna two days after the terrorist scare.

this is the approach I used:

buy a nice ski bag.

Put your sticks in it along with maybe 2 or three juggling balls.

Went asked what's in your bag, or somebody makes a joke about unseasonal skiing, SMILE act like your a bit of a dork for doing it and say they're juggling props. It helps to make the arm motions.

Go to outsize baggage / bulky luggage / whatever they call it, like you've done it many many times before.


My baggage has been inspected by the TSA and everything. No plastic bags on wicks, sometimes unburnt fuel on the wicks, and inside the bag... hella sooty and all that.

But then I'm always going 'on holiday' to america, cos there is no easily attained visa that allows you to earn / gain money over there. I think it helps that I have a job and don't look like a hippy thou.

"the now legendary" - Kaskade
"the still legendary" - Kaskade

I spunked in my friend's aquarium and the fish ate it. I love all fish. Especially the pink ones. They are my bitches. - Anon.

SparkfireFire coach - Cirque du Soleil
89 posts
Location: Bristol, UK

Yeah Australian budget airlines like virgin and jetstar can be a bitch. They specifically state on their flight itineraries no firetwirling sticks.

Glad to hear stateside isn't a hassle.

mcpmcpPLATINUM Member
Flying Water Muppet
5,276 posts
Location: Edin-borrow., United Kingdom

That's plain nasty.

Coming back from vienna, some girl with her parents had a tiny concentrate staff she took on as eek handbaggage! It fit in the overhead lockers so i guess it was okay... eek confused etc.

"the now legendary" - Kaskade
"the still legendary" - Kaskade

I spunked in my friend's aquarium and the fish ate it. I love all fish. Especially the pink ones. They are my bitches. - Anon.

ado-pado-pGOLD Member
Pirate Ninja
3,882 posts
Location: Galway/Ireland

nice bit of advice there... thanks for putting that together... you should consider submitting it to malcolm as an article so it can be linked in the faq.

I've flown loads around eurpope with my staffs and in the end the most effective thing I have found to 'hide' them in is black plastic bags. Any kind of staff bag, sports bag will be eyed up a bit. but a long thing in a plain black plastic bag covered with brown tape has never warranted any interest... Pack your staff bag into your backbag... Its amazing how well the power of suggestion works...

Sticks for dancing is a great one... its just weird enough not to illicit any more questions ubblol

Love is the law.

DurbsDurbsBRONZE Member
Classically British
5,688 posts
Location: Epsom, Surrey, England

I went through 20 airports in 10 months on my round the world travels, from the first departure in the UK, I was flying with dirty, smelly, paraffin-odoured double staffs and poi.

I never mentioned them, nor did any airline (Including 1 flight into Oz, one internal flight, and one flight out of Oz).
The only "close call" was the check-in lady for Qantas said she could smell fuel (The bag I carried the staffs in reeked) I said there had been some residue on some props, but then she got distracted by the fact we had 5 lighters in our hand luggage... biggrin

Burner of Toast
Spinner of poi
Slacker of enormous magnitude

_Poiboy__Poiboy_PLATINUM Member
bastard child of satan
1,113 posts
Location: Raanana, Israel

i flew for the first time to the UK for PLAY. i had my fire poi in my backpack in a regular bag (or 3)... the guys at the airport were too busy feeling me up to notice the fire poi :P. but i guess it's much harder with staffs...

newgabenewgabeSILVER Member
what goes around comes around. unless you're into stalls.
4,030 posts
Location: Bali, Australia

Many airlines, such as Emirates, actually give you extra allowance for sporting equipment such as skis. Ski bags or fishing bags are great. And yes, dance sticks, juggling toys or acrobatics props are fine things to say.

Don't be tooo blase about *I've travelled lots with stinky gear" stories*

I have had to pick up smelly gear that some (professional!) friends tried to fly to NZ and that was refused loading and confiscated. It did smell too. They'd used kerosene for heavens sake!

.....Can't juggle balls but I sure as hell can juggle details....

Kathain_BowenKathain_BowenGood Ol' Yarn For Hair
422 posts
Location: Atlanta, GA, USA

Hooray, Pyroptix, for posting this informative information!

I've never tried to take my fire toys anywhere, but I can't go anywhere without at least some toys! I've often packed my spheres in carry on (*for terminal play) and my practice poi in baggage (*along with a note begging the TSA officials not to throw them out). I will be sure to reference this if I want to bring fire toys anywhere!

One time, the fools at TSA saw something funny in my baggage when I was coming back to GA after Christmas break in NJ with presents for my roommies and friends. They must have felt damned pressed to open one. I still laugh to myself to this day thinking of the face of the TSA official who decided they just HAD to open the supposedly dangerous present and found......... the Hello Kitty Sushi Stationary Set!

"So long and thanks for all the fish."

Hana4Hana4BRONZE Member
90 posts
Location: Perth, Australia

Here's another thing to add to the story...

I friend and I were going through Australian customs (entering the country) and having our bags screened. The customs guys said there appeared to be something "organic" in our bags. We were stuff as to what it could be as we had nothing of the sort. Once they rummaged through our bags, we discovered that the offensive "organic" material was actually glow sticks! (the cheap kind you snap to make them light up). So, I would suggest not packing any glow sticks with your fire gear or attaching them onto your fire gear when you travel, as the "organic" nature of the glowies may attract attention to your fire stuff.

28 posts
Location: Loughborough, UK

Hi everyone
I'm going to FireDrums in the US at the end of April, and will be driving down from Vancouver to Seattle and then flying down from Seattle. I want to take my fire kit obviously, which is mainly staff. I keep them in a ski bag, which I tend to carry inside my main kit bag (another ski bag). So essentially it would be double-bagged.

Any ideas if I would have any problems with this?


GeezaGeezaGOLD Member
694 posts
Location: Leeds, United Kingdom

Ive just done thailand, laos, singapore, australia, new zealand, fiji USA and back into UK. had no problems taking my flowpoi or petrol soaked monkeyfists into any of them.

The nearest i got was when asked by a customs person who was doing a full bag search coming into australia said "what smells of petrol" I just replied "not sure I cant smell anything"

A few times the flowpoi duo were examined like they were some strange sex toys. ha ha

1 post

I'm going to be flying from Vancouver to L.A. then to Auckland.

I was thinking about taking my staff ( 3 piece collapsible ) in an air tight 2' long ABS tube strapped to my back pack.

There hasn't been any fuel on this staff in a little over a year, and the only fuel that was ever on it was Kerosene and white gas ( Camp / Naphtha ).

Now would it be better to tell the airline(s) about it before hand or to try and talk my way though..... ?

6,650 posts

I have my staff bag containing

a huge and heavy contact staff (used)
two pair of poi, one braided and one ropes
two fireswords

going from Germany to India and back and forth to Bali via Thailand...

Apart from groundstaff always saying, "these are golf-clubs, right?" or me climing that it's a fishing rod (the bag is camoflage) I only had a problem once with German aviation authorities, only leaving a note in my bag:

"Sorry, but it seemed that you are carrying prohibited items and therefore we had to open and check. Any inconvenience caused is highly regretted"

shrug maybe I'm just lucky... bounce2

the best smiles are the ones you lead to wink

burningoftheclaveyburningoftheclaveySILVER Member
lurking like a ninja with no camouflage..
926 posts
Location: over yonder, New Zealand

It might be worth cleaning your staffs and putting new wicks on or taking old wicks off for travelling before you go to the airport if you are worried about it. I had to do this at the airport in Australia and they still wouldnt let me through...

maybe im just unlucky... wink

on spam robots - "Burn the robot! Melt him down, and then we can make lots and lots of money from his shiiiny juices!"

Owned by Brenn smile

6,650 posts

maybe firespinning earned some ... reputation ... I mean it's a small world there in Oz

the best smiles are the ones you lead to wink

8 posts
Location: Topeka, KS

If by Oz you mean ks.... yeah, the airports here are full of idiots... passengers and crew alike. I got through with lighters in my bag I forgot about and they just let it go. I wouldnt push your luck though, a strange lot out here in the middle of the U.S.

Mother_Natures_SonMother_Natures_SonSILVER Member
Rampant whirler.
2,418 posts
Location: Geelong, Victoria, Australia!

Oz= Australia?


8 posts
Location: Topeka, KS

I was thinking kansas because of the wizard of oz... thats what ppl usually mean when they make a reference to oz.

liquidtranceliquidtrancei dream in circles...
336 posts
Location: Scotland

i read the title of this thread and thought it was about something much more exciting, had visions of one of you mentalists jumping off something in a kevlar hang-glider or something....

even chuck norris can't pin you down if your on fire

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