[Dixielandjazz] Traveling Cases

dhs@ev1.net dhs@ev1.net
Sat, 14 Sep 2002 09:47:30 -0500

Dear Listers:

I play tuba, and as you might expect, the subject of flying with a tuba gets
a lot of discussion on the TubaEuph List from time to time.  The tuba is not
the toughest instrument to fly with, but it comes close.  My vote for worst
would be a full-size string bass.  Professional cello and bass players have
to buy another ticket, and the instrument occupies a seat.  Back in the
1980s, I took two series of flights with my valve trombone as a carry-on,
and didn't have any trouble.

Most tuba cases are not travel-worthy.  When I was traveling back and forth
between Maryland and Texas in 2001, I had a tuba shipped down via air
freight.  The case is very strong, I wrapped the tuba in sheet foam inside
the case, and did not leave anything to bounce around and cause dents, such
as a mouthpiece.  Then I put the case inside a cardboard packing case and
surrounded that with packing material.  It traveled fine.

On the TubaEuph List, the travel cases of choice are Walt Johnson and Anvil.
Anvil cases are slightly less expensive, and are somewhat heavier.  Both are
well-built and do the job.  A friend of mine once managed to check his old
bell front tuba from Philadelphia to Sacramento by building cases out of
heavy cardboard and carved styrofoam (one case each for body and bell).  In
the case of a tuba, you are talking about checking a large, fragile object.
Ed talked to the airline, and arrived very early for the flight to get
things smoothed over.  On the TubaEuph List, horror stories have come from
people who took equal care.  Ed told me that he worried his way through both
flights, but the horn came through unscathed.

The comments on DJML about instruments getting rough handling are
representative of reality.  I played the 1988 Tampa Jazz Jubilee, and the
tuba player from Little Rock was playing a sousaphone with considerable
damage, although the valve set and lead pipe had survived, and the horn was
still playable.  One of my worries is that the original ground crew will do
it right, but that the next crew will play basketball with the horn and case
while it is being transferred to another flight.  A nonstop flight might be

Many festival tuba players will make arrangements to borrow a horn at the
other end of the flight.  I played a borrowed horn in Tampa.  Another
thought is to make arrangements to gate check your horn.  That is, carry it
through security to the gate, and give it up there, to go last into the
baggage compartment.  At the other end of the flight, it comes off and you
get it back as you deplane.  As has been pointed out, in today's security
climate, the degree of airport/airline cooperation is uncertain, and likely
to vary from location to location.

A Thought for the Day:  Two vultures attempted to board an airliner,
carrying two dead raccoons apiece.  The flight attendant said: "I'm so
sorry, only one carrion per passenger."

Happy Trails,
Dave Stoddard
Round Rock, TX