7 Best TSA 'Aha Moments': Strange Things at Airport Security

A look at the seven best 'gets' by the TSA so far this year.

ByABC News
January 31, 2012, 1:43 PM

Feb. 1, 2012— -- You really have to find something strange to beat the best airport security catch of 2011 and of course I mean the guy at Miami International who tried to go through security with seven snakes in his pants.

Had the reptiles not been discovered - as they were via a TSA body scan machine - imagine sitting on a plane only to notice slithering in a seatmate's trouser region. The guy had three turtles in there, too.

Maybe you don't travel with snakes-in-pants, but you don't want to be stuck in line behind someone like this either if only because of delays and help is on the way thanks to expedited security lines in more airport as such lanes would pretty much exclude reptile hoarders. In the meantime, sit back and enjoy the seven best security 'gets' so far this year.

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1. Dagger in a Hair Brush

An unusual weapon was found at Virginia's tiny Lynchburg Regional Airport: a hair brush with a dagger concealed inside the bristles. This was not your everyday knife, either, according to authorities: several inches long with an "ice-pick style blade". A stylist's defense against customer critiques? The TSA did not say.

2. Speargun

An unidentified passenger rather touchingly thought he'd be allowed to board his plane with a speargun in hand. If you think this security 'get' took place at a Hawaiian airport or somewhere in the Caribbean, nope. The speargun was confiscated at Salt Lake City International.

3. Chain Saw

Leatherface was nowhere in evidence when screeners at New York's Elmira-Corning Regional airport stopped a passenger from going through security with a gassed-up chainsaw in his carry-on. Chainsaw, okay; gasoline, not so much. The fuel was dumped, the chainsaw checked, and Mr. Fix-It was allowed to proceed on his way.

4. Lipstick Stun Gun

A 350,000 volt stun gun cleverly designed to look like a lipstick case was found in a passenger's carry-on bag at Burlington (Vermont) International. These smaller airports definitely have the most interesting passengers, don't they?

5. Live Teargas Grenade

Must have been exciting at Phoenix's Sky Harbor airport when a passenger strolled through security with a live teargas grenade in a carry-on. As a TSA blogger put it, "Dispersed Teargas Grenade + Pressurized Cabin = Pandemonium". That pretty much covers it.

6. $22,373 in Cash

A passenger at Jacksonville International turned in an abandoned bag to the TSA. It's not clear whether this Good Samaritan took a peek inside, but if he had, he'd have seen more than 22-thousand dollars in cash inside. The bag was reunited with its owner who must have been sweating bullets. And speaking of bullets…

7. 69 Loaded Guns (and counting)

As usual, the TSA confiscates a lot of guns: well over a thousand in 2011 alone. And so far this year, screeners discovered nearly 70 loaded guns in carry-ons. One recent incident that received considerable attention took place at the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport when TSA officers saw a weapon in a bag, but its owner - a 65 year old woman - left security before they could nab it.

After a lengthy search (which delayed about a dozen flights), the woman was found aboard an American flight that had already pushed back from the gate and was called back. The woman's excuse was the time-honored, "I forgot I had it." The woman, by the way, is an attorney.

So what can you do if you're stuck behind any of these yahoos? Hope it ends quickly, or better yet, try one of the following for a speedier security experience:

My TSA app: Download this free app for your phone and see security line 'wait times' before you head to the airport. It also provides information on whether specific items can or can't go through security, though when I tested it on 'peanut butter' it simply informed me that no gels or liquids above 3.4 ounces are allowed (yes, I know peanut butter isn't a liquid, but 'gel' may be open to interpretation).

PreCheck expedited security lanes: The experimental program at a handful airports around the U.S. is proving to be wildly popular and the TSA recently expanded it, adding PreCheck lanes at Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Salt Lake.

It's not for everyone, though. It is currently open to U.S. citizens who are miles program members of participating airlines, plus you have to be 'invited' to sign on. Then you must agree to a background check but if all goes well, you get to use the quicker PreCheck lanes which means you get to keep your shoes on.

Well, not always. PreCheck-approved passengers are still subject to random security checks like everyone else. Still, it's probably better that than being stuck in line behind the guy with all those snakes in his pants.

This work is the opinion of the columnist and does not reflect the opinion of ABC News.

Rick Seaney is one of the country's leading experts on airfare, giving interviews and analysis to news organizations that include ABC News, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, the Associated Press and Bloomberg. His website, FareCompare.com, offers consumers free, new-generation software, combined with expert insider tips to find the best airline ticket deals.