Flying with Fountain Pens

@MacSparky, since this was probably off topic for the episode that it appeared in, here is my experience.

Many fountain pen owners worry that fountain pens could burp out ink when the cabin pressure is reduced. This would end up inside the cap, get on the section and then when you try to write with the pen you get inky fingers. In fact, the first time I experienced this was with a Pilot V5, so it’s not just fountain pens that suffer. The root cause is that air inside the pen expands more than the ink, so can cause ink to be pushed out. Many people recommend to either fill the pen completely before flight or empty the pen completely before flight.

If you have more than one fountain pen, you may know that with some, the nib dries out faster. There may still be ink in the pen, but it won’t write until you dip it in water as a minimum. I reasoned that this was because the liquid in the ink was evaporating out through the cap seal. So for flying with pens, I choose the ones that don’t dry out.

In practice, I find snap caps and slip caps dry out fastest, finely machined Kaweco Al-Sports don’t. A Platinum 3776 has a good air seal, so does an Esterbrook Estie.

The first time I flew with fountain pens, I carefully wrapped the chosen few in tissue and elastic bands, then a ziploc, put that in my Nock Sinclair and when on the plane I kept the Nock Sinclair upright in the seat back pocket, making very sure not to leave it there upon landing. However, when nothing bad happened, nowadays I just pack them in the Nock Sinclair and keep it in my bag. The worst I ever saw was a bit of ink coming out on a nib the next time I used the pen.

It goes without saying, don’t take the cap off a fountain pen during flight. When you open the pen after landing, check the section with a bit of tissue paper before use.

Hope this helps, and fly safe!


Thanks @Diane … My favorite pen is the platinum 3776 so maybe I shouldn’t worry.


Thank goodness the Apple Pencil doesn’t suffer from this… :slight_smile:


Anecdotally, I’ve had no problem writing with my pens on a plane. I’ll grant these were mostly cheaper Jinhaos, but I love writing on planes so I probably won’t stop! I do make sure to keep tissues nearby though in case of an unexpected amount of ink making an appearance.

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you beat me to it. :grinning:

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Just that Apple needs to rename Apple Pencil to Apple Pen.

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Which nib did you get? UEF here!

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Challenge accepted! Argh, 20 characters….

I’m a nib weirdo. Medium nib, architect grind. :slight_smile: You can see a writing sample in today’s post. My writing is not pretty, but I love the nib.


Ultra extra fine on a Japanese nib? Wow I’d love to see a sample, i suspect it won’t let any ink pass :smiley:

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I learned that the hard way a few years back, the ink exploded on the form I’m writing on that I had to hunt down an FA to secure me one of those forms. I had to borrow a pen from a neighbor. I had to empty my fountain pens, either carry an extra nib or a bottle of ink. Placed them in a ziplock with lots of tissue for cushion and for accidental spills.

I carry two Sarasa pens (one of those pens that works great for left-handed) for writing on the plane.

@memex – here’s your writing sample:

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It’s fine!

(20 chars limit, enemy of wit)

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Results from my recent transatlantic return flight: no issues using any of the following during the flight:

Kaweco Al Sport 1.1mm stub
Platinum 3776 UEF nib
Kaweco AL Sport EF nib
Schon DSGN Pocket 6 EF nib, converted to Architect by Mark Bacas
Pilot Hi Tec C 0.38mm - it’s about the same as the Platinum UEF nib, so I’d suggest trying one if you are UEF-curious.

I noticed the Kaweco Al Sport caps seemed a little loose when I opened them on the flight. On the other hand, when I landed at the destination after the outbound flight, there was a slight pop when I opened the Schon DSGN - it has a pretty good seal.

And the writing instrument that didn’t work at all? My Apple Pencil. Sadly my 9.7" iPad Pro stopped charging during the trip. I have tried cleaning the lightning socket using an air squeezer bulb, to no avail.

Well here’s another report on this topic.

After becoming quite complacent about fountain pens on planes I took my Pilot Vanishing Point EF on a 3 leg trip. At the destination I used it for some note taking without apparent issue.

After the return journey I was picked up from the airport and we went to dinner about 2 hours after I landed. I clicked open the PVP to draw a diagram about a topic of conversation at dinner and was rewarded with a spurt of black ink on my finger. Hand sanitizer removed the worst of it.

What was I thinking? There are a few fountain pen designs with mechanisms to click or turn the nib out of the barrel; I don’t consider any of them to be as air-tight as a threaded cap or spring seal. As well as the PVP I also have Platinum Curidas and Lamy Dialog. From now on they either stay home or warrant special attention after flying.

This issue doesn’t just apply to fountain pens. Many years ago I discovered the Pilot Precise V5 can leak into the cap during / after flying with it.