These Pens Were Made for Flyin’

I’m going to do something different with this post because the three trans-continental trips I’ve taken while carrying various fountain pens do not make me a subject matter expert in this area. Instead, I was hoping to hear from you, the jet-setting traveler.

Let’s discuss airplane-friendly fountain pens. I’ve had excellent experiences flying with these two:

On the left, a TWSBI Vac Mini and on the right, a Wing Sung 698.

The Wing Sung 698 is a piston-filler with a locking cap that keeps the piston from moving when you don’t want it to. Because it’s a piston-filler, it’s easy to fill extra-super-duper full, which keeps ink from leaking out as the pen travels from the ground to a pressurized cabin at 35,000 feet. I’ve noticed a bit of ink creep on the nib during flight, but no ink drops in the cap or anywhere else.

The TWSBI Vac Mini is a vacuum-filler with a valve that can be closed to seal the ink chamber in the barrel. The valve works. The pen performs as well in the air as it does on the ground, and the ink stays put. With a Vac Mini, you don’t have to worry about refilling the pen before a flight. It’s the most convenient pen I’ve found.

I’ve taken cartridge pens on flights, but I ended up with ink in the caps when they weren’t completely clean before takeoff. Even being careful about keeping the pen upright didn’t help when faced with the force of expanding air. I still take cartridge pens with me on trips, but I clean them before I leave and only ink them when I arrive at my destination.

And my precious vintage pens? Just, no.

What are your experiences flying with fountain pens? Any tips to share? Better yet, any stories of disaster?


17 thoughts on “These Pens Were Made for Flyin’

  1. Anthony April 17, 2018 / 11:09 am

    I must be lucky because I fly about once a month with half a dozen pens of all brands, and have never had a problem. Case in point, just flew to Madrid with a Pilot Fermo, Pelikan M805, Lamy Dialog, Lamy Aion (with cartridge), and Montblanc 1912. I just keep them upright with me in my seat and all is well. I use them during the flight too.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The Economical Penster April 17, 2018 / 12:37 pm

      That’s useful information, and why I wanted to hear from people who are actually flying a lot instead of speculatively so. πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 2 people

      • Anthony April 17, 2018 / 12:38 pm

        Indeed! :). I do try to make sure my pens are full when I fly, but they’re rarely full on the way home and I never have a problem then either! I am a bit nervous about the four bottles of ink I bought from iguanasell here and will have in my case on the way back…

        Liked by 2 people

      • The Economical Penster April 17, 2018 / 12:43 pm

        I had a bottle of ink with me in my carry-on on the flight there, and it was fine. That same bottle flew in checked luggage on the way back — which made me awfully nervous — but it arrived intact. I did have it in a plastic zip bag for a bit of extra protection both times, but yes, FLYING INK MAKES ME NERVOUS.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Paul Godden April 17, 2018 / 1:11 pm

        Thanks, I am such a complete coward with regard to leaking pens on international flights… over-compensation is my middle name.

        How do you carry your stuff on a bike? I would be paranoid about coming off and breaking a favorite.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The Economical Penster April 17, 2018 / 1:13 pm

        That would take another post, entitled “These Pens Are Made For Vibratin'”, which might cause us all to veer right down into the gutter.

        Liked by 4 people

  2. Andrew Young April 17, 2018 / 12:33 pm

    Maybe I’m just lucky, but I haven’t had many issues flying with fountain pens. I’ve had more leaks or seepage with cartridge rollerballs and fiber tip pens such as liquid expressos. Most of the pens have converters, but some are piston fill. In all cases leakage is more likely when the pen is near empty or < 1/2 full, as there is more air inside to expand. I used to put my pen case in the seat pocket to keep them upright during take-off and landing, but the last several flights I've just left them in my bag under the seat. Some I use in flight and some I don't. Either way they've been ok.

    To be safe, my recommendation is 1) top off the pen before flying to reduce the amount of air, and 2) keep the pens upright during ascent / descent. And 3) keep a tissue handy the first time you uncap the pen, just in case.

    Otherwise I would not worry too much about it

    Liked by 3 people

    • Andrew Young April 17, 2018 / 12:47 pm

      I haven’t tried flying with bottles of ink. I’d be more concerned about a glass bottle breaking than leaking, so the plastic (Nalgene) bottle are a good idea. I’ve carried those small plastic ink sample vials on longer trips in case a pen runs out of ink, and they’ve stayed sealed tight.

      Liked by 3 people

      • The Economical Penster April 17, 2018 / 12:52 pm

        It’s definitely glass ink bottles that worry me the most.

        I can vouch for the small sub-100ml Nalgene bottles for holding ink during a flight. The one I used didn’t leak a drop. I’m glad to hear that ink sample vials worked well, too, though I suppose if they can make it through the mail, they ought to be able survive a flight.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. bureaumishka April 19, 2018 / 8:13 am

    Nice read, thank you. Same here, keep them inked up and upright…that said, (feeling brave) I have been testing keeping pens horizontally and so far so good πŸ™‚
    TWSBI Vac Mini is in my opinion the ultimate travel pen πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  4. podtourz April 19, 2018 / 1:20 pm

    Don’t ever fly with a fountain pen with a wooden body, cap or section. If your ink misbehaves, you’ve ruined the pen and not just a shirt.


  5. a5o2013 April 22, 2018 / 5:35 am

    I travelled from Europe to US and back to Europe several times with my Lamy Al-Stars with cartdrige installed (both full and partially used) with no problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Alvin April 22, 2018 / 8:12 am

    I’ve flown lots with my Lamy 2k and a Parker “51” sans problems, except for the time I lost my favorite Dove Gray P”51″ Special on a flight to Denver. :(((( Since then, I’ve left my pens in my bag (mostly upright) except when using it to mimize any chance they’ll fall out of the pocket


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