Readers of the StuckatTheAirport.com blog know that I often cite the TSA’s blog and Instagram accounts, which catalog the firearms and often outrageous items that passengers try to take with them onto planes.
The creative and really funny TSA employee who has been responsible for these social media outlets died recently and I wrote a quick turn post for USA TODAY:
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It is with heavy hearts that we confirm the passing of our friend and colleague Curtis “Blogger Bob” Burns. Bob was a dedicated husband and father, as well as being an icon in the social media world. We are saddened by Bob’s passing, and we send our prayers to his family during this difficult time.
Curtis Robert Burns, the Transportation Security Administration’s surprise social media star, passed away on Friday, October 19 at the age of 48 after a sudden illness.
Known as “Blogger Bob” to followers of the TSA blog and to the more than 950,000 subscribers of TSA’s Instagram account, Burns used what he called his corny, “dad humor” to educate the public about the work of the TSA and the rules regarding what passengers may and may not take with them onto airplanes.
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These can fly! Well… they can fly on the plane as a carry-on item, but they can’t actually fly anymore. Those days have clearly passed for this swarm. They’ve been pinned down for quite a while on a project. I’m guessing your husband made you ask because he didn’t want to be a pest and bug us, right? … This is a screenshot of a tweet sent to the AskTSA account on Twitter. … Have you ever wondered whether or not you can pack a certain item? If you're a regular follower of this account, I'm sure you can think of many situations where it would have behooved somebody to send us a picture first. Well, fret no more! Now you can do just that… … Simply snap a picture and tweet it to AskTSA (twitter.com/asktsa), or send it via Facebook Messenger (facebook.com/asktsa) and our team will get back to you promptly with an answer. … And that's not all. Contact us about any TSA related issue or question you might have. We can even help you if you don’t see TSA Pre✓® on your boarding pass. … We look forward to answering your questions, 9am-7pm daily. #AskTSA #TSATravelTips
On TSA’s blog, Burns shared a weekly count of the firearms TSA officers found at airport checkpoints and a summary of the knives and other often alarming prohibited items passengers packed in carry-on and checked bags and in their pockets, briefcases and purses.
He also filmed a humorous year-end video countdown of TSA’s Top Ten Most Unusual Finds where his dry wit was charmingly evident.
“His Top 10 items of ridiculous items found at the checkpoint reminded everyone that commonsense isn’t evenly distributed. And what screening officers did isn’t security theater. And if it were, the cast of characters were often those being screened and not doing the screening, as some suggest,” Michael Bilello, a TSA spokesperson noted in a statement announcing Burns’ death.
Thanks to Burns and his wry approach to sharing photos and comments about odd items discovered by TSA officers, TSA’s Instagram account won many honors, including three Webby Awards in 2018 and ranked fourth best by Rolling Stone in 2015.
Here’s Burns giving his Webby Award acceptance speech:
During a TSA Facebook live, “Ask Me Anything” episode earlier this year, Burns attributed the success of TSA’s Instagram account in part to the shock value.
“People don’t come to a government Instagram account and expert to see humor,” he said, “And they also don’t expect to see these crazy things that people are trying to bring on a plane.”
His favorite item? The sandwich slicer that someone tried to bring on board, “Just like the ones you see at the deli!”
According to an obituary in the Dayton Daily News, Burns was a chemical engineer for the U.S. army during Desert Storm, the father of two daughters and also lead singer and song writer for the “Big in Iowa” band.