Fountain pens are not as popular as they once were due to the convenience and affordability of disposable pens, but they are making a significant resurgence among those who love to write. Fountain pen users tend to take their favorite pen with them everywhere they go, but what about long-distance travel? Can you take a fountain pen on a plane? What is the flying with fountain pens do’s and don’ts?
Fountain pens may leak in a plane due to the change in air pressure while flying, but fountain pens are safe to fly with if you are careful. Never use a fountain pen during ascent or descent, be sure to either empty or refill the pen before departure and only use the pen at cruising altitude.
Modern fountain pens are unlikely to leak on airplanes, but there is still a chance that they will, especially if the proper steps are not taken to prevent it. Certain pens are more likely to leak than others, and some pens are very unlike to leak at all. Let’s explore air travel with fountain pens, as well as 7 do’s and don’ts of flying with fountain pens.
Do Fountain Pens Leak On Planes?
Fountain pens are becoming more popular in recent years than they have been since their peak in the 1920s – 1940s. This means that more writers are using the exquisite writing implements, and more people are traveling with their favorite fountain pen along for the ride.
There are many stories of fountain pens leaking, burping, or even rupturing completely. This has been a major deterrent that has kept many from traveling by air with their fountain pens.
Let’s get right down to it – do fountain pens leak on planes?
Fountain pens may leak on planes, but modern fountain pens that are in good condition are very unlikely to leak any substantial amounts of ink while flying.
Fountain pens of the past were more likely to leak, but the materials, technologies, and techniques that go into designing and producing modern fountain pens mean that they are of higher quality and are more sturdy than older fountain pens.
Modern fountain pens are built with very tight-fitting seals that are designed to prevent leaks and other mishaps. There are even modern fountain pens that are sold as leak-proof, with the claim that these fountain pens will never allow ink to leak from them under any circumstances.
That being said, it is possible for even modern fountain pens to leak during air travel, and they have been known to do so from time to time. The age of the pen, the quality of the pen, how the pen is maintained and refilled, and how the pen is stored while flying are all factors that contribute to whether or not a fountain pen will leak on a plane.
The nature of fountain pens, being that they store their ink onboard within the barrel of the pen and the fact that fountain pen ink is water-based and quite free-flowing, means that it is not impossible for fountain pens to leak under any circumstances.
Due to the conditions that fountain pens are subjected to during a flight, this makes them much more likely to leak than other kinds of pens, regardless of their age or condition.
Why Do Fountain Pens Leak At Higher Altitudes?
Fountain pens are more prone to leaking at high altitudes than other pens are, and this includes the high altitudes experienced while flying.
Most others do not have this problem, so what is it about fountain pens that make them more likely to leak at high altitudes, and why do fountain pens leak while flying in airplanes?
The reason why fountain pens are likely to leak at high altitudes or while flying is because of the lower air pressure around the pen in these conditions.
When a fountain pen is taken up to high altitudes or into a pressurized airplane cabin, the air pressure around the pen is lower than inside the pen, as the air inside the pen is still at ground pressure.
When the air pressure around the pen decreases, the air pressure inside the pen increases to try to equalize with the air around it. This increase in pressure inside the pen causes the air within the pen to be forced out of any exit it can find, taking the ink along with it.
There is usually air trapped inside a fountain pen because fountain pens are not filled and then left that way. They are used for writing, and when the pen is written, it uses some of the ink within the pen, and that space is replaced with air.
This trapped air within the fountain pen is the reason why the ink is likely to leak out or rather be pushed out when the pen is taken into a low-pressure environment such as the pressurized cabin or a plane, or high altitudes.
Another reason why this is more likely to occur in fountain pens than other pens is that fountain pen ink is not as thick as other inks, as it is water-based. This makes the ink far more fluid and makes it easier for the ink to escape from the pen.
When the pressurized air inside the fountain pen is forced out of the pen to equalize the pressure with the air around it, the ink in the pen is likely to be forced out of the nib of the fountain pen or out of any seals that may not be in perfect condition.
Which Fountain Pens Are Most Likely To Leak On A Plane?
All fountain pens use the same type of ink, and they all function in basically the same way. The ink is stored with the barrel of the pen and runs down the feed into the nib of the fountain pen so that it can be transferred onto paper when writing.
The fact that all of these pens operate in the same way does not mean that all fountain pens are the same.
The main difference between the types of fountain pens is the way the ink is stored within the barrel of the pen. Some pens are more likely to leak on a plane than others due to how the ink is stored in the pen and the ink capacity of the pen.
The most common type of fountain pen are pens that use disposable cartridges. These fountain pens are the least likely to leak on a plane because there is likely to be less air in the cartridges, these pens have very good seals, and if short cartridges are used, there is not a large amount of ink stored within the pen.
The fountain pen that is most likely to leak while flying in a plane is eye-dropper fountain pens. These pens have the highest capacity of any fountain pen, and the entire barrel of the pen is usually used as an ink tank.
These pens are often converted to being eye-dropper pens for their large capacity, and therefore do not always have seals that are designed to contain the quantity of ink held in eye-dropper pens.
The high capacity tank, the large amount of ink, lack of a cartridge, and poor seals make eye-dropper pens the most likely to leak ink when on a plane.
These pens are likely to have more air in them and more ink in them, which means that there is more air to be pushed out of the tank and more ink to come with it when the pens’ air pressure equalizes in the plane.
Other types of fountain pens, such as those that use converters or built-in filling mechanisms, are less likely to leak than eye-dropper pens but more likely to leak than cartridge pens due to their higher capacity than cartridge pens.
Flying With Fountain Pens: 7 Do’s And Don’ts
While flying with fountain pens may not be as risk-free as flying with other types of pens, it is possible to do so safely.
To fly with fountain pens, the traveler should take extra care to prevent leaks. There are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to air travel with fountain pens, some of which are simple, some are less obvious, but they are all important to remember before taking flight with a fountain pen on board.
Let’s go over the 7 most important do’s and don’ts of flying with fountain pens:
Flying With Fountain Pens: Do’s
These are the do’s and don’ts of fountain pens when taking them along for an airplane flight:
1 – Completely Empty The Pen And Clean It
The best way to prevent a fountain pen from leaking on a plane is to remove the ink from the pen before departure.
It is also important to clean the pen thoroughly, as there may be residual ink leftover in parts of the pen that can still be pushed out when the pen equalizes in flight.
2 – Completely Fill The Pen Before Flying
Another option, rather than emptying the pen, is to completely fill the pen before the flight. This only works if you do not write with the pen at all before the flight.
If the pen is completely full of ink, there is no space for air in the pen to be compressed and push ink out during the flight.
3 – Keep The Pen Verticle
The easiest place for the ink to leak from a fountain pen is from the nib. If the air pressure in the plane forces air out of the pen, holding it upright, nib-up will let the air escape while, while minimizing the ink that leaks from the nib.
4 – Keep The Pen Capped
All fountain pens need a cap to protect everything around them from being touched with ink.
Keeping the fountain pen capped is a good way to keep any ink that does perhaps escape the pen from leaking onto anything that should not have ink on it.
A cap will not prevent the leaks, but it will keep any leaked ink well contained. Just be wary when removing the cap from the pen, in case there is some ink trapped in it waiting to be let out.
5 – Only Use The Pen An Cruising Altitude
The most drastic changes in air pressure during a flight happen when the plane is taking off or landing or when ascending and descending.
This is when the pen is most prone to leaks, and if you have to use the one while on the plane, wait until the plane reaches cruising altitude, where the air is a little more stable.
6 – Place The Fountain Pen In A Zip-Lock Bag
One of the best ways to keep a fountain pen ink spill contained is to place the pen within a sealed zip-lock bag before the flight takes off.
This ensures that any ink that may have potentially leaked from the pen is well contained and will not damage any of your other possessions.
7 – Check The Pens’ Seals Before Flying
To be sure that your fountain pen is fit for flying, always do a proper pre-flight inspection of the pen.
Check the seals of the fountain pen before taking it on a plane. Look for any cracked or tarnished sections in the seals. An improper seal in a fountain pen is a way to guarantee that the one will leak during air travel.
Flying With Fountain Pens: Don’ts
While there are some things that one should always do when flying with a fountain pen, there are some that should never be done as well.
These are the top 7 don’ts for flying with fountain pens.
1 – Do Not Fly With A Half-full Fountain Pen
If the cartridge, converter, or ink tank in your fountain pen is half full, there is a lot of room for air to be trapped within the pen.
The more air in the pen before take off, the more likely the pen is to leak ink when that air is pushed out of the pen during the flight.
More air in the pen equals a bigger mess when flying with a fountain pen.
2 – Do Not Fly With A Faulty Fountain Pen
If a fountain pen has been damaged, or if the seals of the pen are tarnished, it is not a good idea to fly with it.
A damaged pen is unlikely to be able to keep the ink properly contained while flying.
3 – Do Not Fly With An Air-Tight Fountain Pen Cap In Place
Air-tight caps are a modern fountain pen addition. These caps keep the ink within the pen at regular air pressure, but in a plane, they create even more air to be compressed within the pen.
This may lead to a catastrophic leak that is very difficult to maintain.
4 – Do Not Use The Fountain Pen During Ascent Or Descent
Keep your fountain pen capped and unused during take-off and landing or while ascending and descending.
These moments of the flight are the most dangerous for a fountain pen, and it is most likely to leak ink here than at cruising altitude.
5 – Do Not Leave The Pen Nib Down While Flying
Always keep a fountain pen nib pointing upward when flying.
This will help to keep the ink inside the pen while allowing the air to escape through the nib as the air pressure equalizes.
6 – Do Not Remove The Cap
To keep the ink contained, keep the cap on the pen.
This is always true for fountain pens, not just while flying.
Fountain pen caps are designed to keep the ink from leaking too far out of the pen, and so they work well for containing leaked ink on a plane.
7 – Do Not Use A Full Eye-Dropper Fountain Pen On A Plane
If you use an eye-dropper pen, it may be best to empty the pen and remove the ink before flying.
These pens are the most likely to leak during a flight, and when they do, they tend to make quite the mess.
It may be more simple to reink the pen when you arrive at your destination than to clean spilled ink off of your shoes on the plane.
Modern fountain pens are unlikely to leak when taken for a flight in an airplane, but one must still be careful when doing so.
Fountain pens are more likely to leak on a plane than any other pen, so there are some steps to take to ensure that this does not happen, or if it does, that the ink is well contained.
The two best options are to either empty the pen or fill it completely before departing on a flight. These are the best ways to prevent a fountain pen from leaking on a plane.
Look after your pen, keep it full and pointing upwards, and you can take a fountain pen on a plane!