Flying the Airlines as an Amputee
If you like to get places quickly, the airlines is the way to go. Dealing with the TSA and getting through security at US airports is not nearly the problem that you might imagine. When possible, make it easy for TSA to see and inspect your prosthetic limb. In warmer climates, wearing shorts is the preferred dress of many amputee flyers. Tell them early in the screening process that you are an amputee. As a lower limb amputee you will not have to remove your shoes or remove your leg. Airports that have the full body scanning machines will ask you to remove things from your pockets, and stand in the scanner, arms up. Following that they will want to see the prosthesis and will run an explosive residue wipe or sniff test on it. The residue test is done by wiping a small testing paper or cloth over it and sticking the paper in a machine. Some airports have a small hand held machine that takes an air sample from the prosthesis and tests that. Airports that don’t have a body scanner will do a wand test and pat you down. Once you are next in line, the security process usually takes less than five minutes and you are on your way.
The official regulations, taken directly off the TSA website are printed below.
Passengers with Prosthetics
Travelers with Disabilities and Medical Conditions
Passengers with prostheses can be screened without removing them. The way screening will be conducted depends on the passenger’s level of ability and whether or not he or she voluntarily chooses to remove his or her prosthetic during screening.
The passenger should inform the Transportation Security Officer (TSO) of the existence of a prosthetic, his or her ability, and of any need for assistance before screening begins. Passengers can use TSA’s Notification Card to communicate discreetly with security officers. However, showing this card or other medical documentation will not exempt a passenger from additional screening when necessary.
Passengers with prostheses can be screened using imaging technology, metal detector, or a thorough pat down.
Regardless of whether a passenger is screened by a metal detector, imaging technology, or a thorough pat down, a prosthetic is subject to additional screening. An officer will need to see the prosthetic, which may require the lifting of clothing without exposing any sensitive areas or removing a belt that holds the prosthetic to the passenger’s body. TSA also will use technology to test the prosthetic for traces of explosive material. If explosive material is detected, the passenger will have to undergo additional screening. If a passenger voluntarily removes his or her prosthetic during screening, it will be screened by X-ray.
The Amputee Coalition of America has a good article devoted to interaction with the TSA and airline travel.