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Taking a Fountain Pen on a Flight

So you're taking a flight and want to take your favorite fountain pen on the airplane with you. But is it safe, as we have all have heard stories about pens leaking from the pressure changes and wondered if this is true? If it is, what do you need to do to prepare your fountain pen for the flight? Will the ink leak and ruin your clothes? Is it okay to use on the flight?

Firstly, this is not just a myth, fountain pens can leak on an airplane if they are not properly stored. The standard advice is to carry your fountain pen either completely full or completely empty. If you intend to use your pen on the flight then obviously it needs to be full, so make sure you fill it before leaving and ensure you get all of the air out if you use converters or piston fillers. If you use a cartridge fountain pen ensure you put a new, full cartridge in before leaving.

The next best piece of advice I can give is to make sure that you store the pen upright with the nib pointing up. This is easier to do if you carry your pen in your pocket, but many people don't do that. If you are carrying it in a bag please still follow this rule or you could have a mess to deal with! If you don't need to use your pen during the flight then empty it and put it into your carry-on luggage. Under no circumstances should you have a pen either half full or full of ink lying in a horizontal, or even worse, nib-down position. This will undoubtedly cause your fountain pen to leak.

The reason why fountain pens can leak on flights is due to the change in cabin pressure, which is related to the plane's altitude. As the air pressure changes it expands and can force the ink from your pen. You should keep your pen upright for a few hours before flight and then not take it out of your pocket/bag to use until the ascent has finished. This pretty much means wait until the you are allowed to unbuckle your seat belts. The same applies for the descent, pocket the pen early and you should have no problems.

As an extra precaution, especially if it is the first time you have taken the pen aboard a flight, keep it, still upright, in a plastic bag. That way any mess will be contained should your pen leak in flight. You should also be very cautious as you open the pen for the first time, I suggest holding it in a paper napkin would be a good idea, not over the aircraft's seat or your clothes! Also, make sure you open the pen holding the nib in an upwards position.

So, to summarise:

  • Carry fountain pens either completely full or completely empty.
  • If you are going to use it on the plane make sure you fill it before leaving.
  • If you use converters or piston fillers in your fountain pen make sure you get all of the air out.
  • If you use a cartridge fountain pen make sure you have a full cartridge in before leaving.
  • Always make sure that you store the pen upright with the nib pointing up.
  • Only use it on the plane during the time you are allowed to have your seat belt undone.
  • Be very cautious when you open the pen for the first time on the flight.

Enjoy your flight!

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