Why would someone carry propane on an airplane?

It’s possible today’s story about a woman who tried to get a tank of propane on an airplane isn’t as crazy as it first sounds.

The obvious question in the wake of this morning’s evacuation of the Humphrey Terminal — I’m sorry, Terminal 2 — at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is why on earth would a woman try to carry a propane tank through airport security?

Because we still have some faith in people, we assumed we were not talking about a 20-pound propane tank but about the smaller tanks used for camp stove and Buddy Heaters, in which case the attempt makes perfect sense: she was going camping or ice fishing.

The original description in the Star Tribune suggested otherwise:

The rebuffed passenger left the 2-by-2-foot box, which had tubes sticking out of the top, at a Travel Express gift shop, then went back to checkpoint 1 at the south end of the terminal and boarded her plane, Hogan said. But she was soon removed from the plane and questioned by Airport Police, Hogan added.

That’s a big box — a 20-pound-size kind of box. The kind of box that wouldn’t fit the briefcase-sized box that the TSA puts out to show the limits in the size of carry-on items, the one nobody else checks, either.

But, indeed, MPR News reporter Tim Nelson confirmed there was a stove in the box:

Apparently, it’s relatively common for people to try to get camping equipment through security. The description of the box as having “pipes sticking out of the top” is consistent with the connector camp stoves use.

Like so:


Rejected at security, the woman went to a nearby gift shop and ditched the box. Checking it as checked luggage wasn’t an option because the TSA doesn’t allow propane on airplanes. Period.

So the other question still to be answered is: What do you do with a camp stove when you can’t take it through airport security and you’ve got a flight to catch? In most cases, a person would take a package back to their vehicle if they were unable to take it on a plane, Nelson reported.

In the big scheme of things, this probably wasn’t the weirdest thing people try to get through airport security. Last week, the TSA reports, 37 guns were seized. That’s the case almost every week. Who doesn’t know you can’t have a gun on an airplane? This week, 37 people.

This was confiscated, too:

TSA photo

It’s a stun gun designed to look like a cellphone. Thirteen different airports confiscated them.

Plus, the usual collection of corkscrews and knives.

TSA photo

And hand grenades. Every week, the hand grenades:

TSA photo

A lot of this, of course, is common sense. Some of it is willful deceit, but when you think about it, a woman with some camping equipment seems like one of the saner ones.

In the end, though, it all helps explain why airlines still have to show people how to buckle a seat belt.