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Do basses and/or flight cases expand or contract in airplanes?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by PlayItAway, May 20, 2019.

  1. PlayItAway


    Apr 24, 2014
    Hi all,

    I'd like to know - have there ever been issues of basses cracking under pressure inside a flight case on an airplane, because of differences in air pressure and/or humidity?

    I'm looking to fly with my bass in a week's time. I've done this a few times before with a David Gage case, where the fit was quite relaxed, but the difficulty now is that I may have to use another case - an old 90s fiberglass case into which the bass, with the bag on, fits very tightly. Just fitting it in doesn't harm the bass at all, but if wood and/or fiberglass changes sizes 30,000 feet in the air then there may be a problem.
    Should this be the case, I could probably just pack the bag separately, but it'd be a nuisance.
    (I know part of it with Gage cases is the inflatable air cushions that can expand - this case doesn't have those.)

    So do either of these materials change sizes?

  2. Steve Swan

    Steve Swan

    Oct 12, 2004
    Burlingame, California
    Retailer: Shen, Sun, older European
    Tight is no good. Get a looser fitting trunk or don't fly.
  3. RCWilliams

    RCWilliams Commercial User

    Apr 23, 2007
    Merriam Kansas (Kansas City)
    owner RC Williams Co. LLC
    As long as the case is not sir tight, there should be no volumetric change in the case. air bags are a different matter.
  4. The cargo hold is pressurized and heated. It’s not like your bass will be in the recess the landing gear retracts into.
  5. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    True, but, it'll be in the luggage staging area for some time. Out on the tarmac for some time. Moreover, what stats do you have that demonstrate that airline's are "supposed to" maintain their cargo holds at given temperatures and pressures? I'd like to see that they don't shave pennies by short changing the air conditioning on the cargo hold. I've experienced them NOT air conditioning the passenger cabin until they're in the air.
    If it was my bass, I'd expect huge differences between temperature, humidity, and pressure when flying. Moreover, not everything is within the airline's control.
  6. The hold is where traveling pets are kept. Do the math.

    What color is the case?
  7. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    I don't know how many pets die each year during air travel. I do know it's not insignificant. Find the stats.
    robobass likes this.
  8. Interesting question. I know a groomer whose father is a pilot, and who is trained in the sciences.
  9. Perhaps the "climate control" is the same that works in the cabin. But I am just speculating.
  10. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    I disagree that you should pack loose. If something can move around in a flight case it can get damaged even if the case doesn't. You should pack tight but not too tight. I wouldn't worry about humidity changes. Sealed inside the bag and trunk there's not enough time for significant air exchange. Pressure? Only the inflatable bags would be affected, and since many trunk makers use them, it must not be a problem. Temperature? Again, only if the bass sits on the tarmac for many hours in the hot sun. KungFu, is that why you asked about color? I think this would happen very rarely, as a plane only makes money when it's in the air:) I heard, however, that several NY Phil basses were badly damaged when they sat in the hold of a landed plane for like a whole summer day and the climate control was off. Again, this has got to be very rare. Do make sure you insurance is paid up, and maybe read over your policy once more. Remember that no kind of travel is 100% safe. Not even walking. You just have to decide how much risk you are willing to bare.
    Last edited: May 21, 2019
  11. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I just flew back home yesterday with my travel bass. While in the air at 34,000 feet, the flight info shown on the screen in front of my seat showed the temperature outside the plane as -31f. When my bass trunk came in from the plane less than 10 minutes after deboarding, it was definitely room temperature.
  12. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    I'm not sure the hold is actually climate controlled. Because the air is so thin at that altitude there is almost no heat loss. Also I've read that air friction on the fuselage actually has a slight warming effect.
  13. The case is not completely sealed (unless you wrap it in twenty layers of polyethylene). The pressure inside the case and inside the bass body is the same as the outside, so this cannot cause damage.

    Probably, you should worry about the work of the loaders, and not about the conditions in flight. All events of baggage damage that I know happened in the process of loading and unloading, and not on board the aircraft.
    RSBBass and Tom Lane like this.
  14. Dr. Love

    Dr. Love

    Nov 5, 2008
    Lubbock, TX
    This actually happened to me with a guitar in an SKB case at the MSP airport. Half the plane's luggage showed up at the baggage claim and the other half didn't. They eventually located the missing luggage out on a truck, I guess the driver just went to break instead of taking it where it needed to go first. The case looked like like it had quite a ride too.
  15. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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