Why Your Fountain Pen Leaks On Planes (And Other High Altitude Locations)

Have you ever tried to use a fountain pen somewhere that has a high altitude and found that it leaked? 

A leaky fountain pen can ruin your document, stain your hands, and just be an all-around nuisance. If you’ve noticed that your fountain pen is leaking when you use it either on a plane or at a high-altitude location, don’t be surprised. This happens because of the pressure inside your pen and the air pressure around you. 

In this article, we are going to help you understand why your fountain pen is leaking at high altitudes and what you can do about it. 

Table of Contents

Why does a fountain pen leak at a high altitude?

why does a fountain pen leak at high altitude

Fountain pens are filled with both ink and air. The air inside your pen is equal to the air pressure at the earth’s surface. When you bring your fountain pen to a higher altitude than the earth’s surface, the air at the higher altitude has a lower pressure than the pen’s pressure. 

The difference in air pressure between what’s inside your fountain pen and what is present at high altitudes like on an airplane can cause a shift in your pen’s pressure. That change in air pressure inside your pen can cause it to push ink out when you aren’t using the pen, causing leakage. 

What can I do about a fountain pen that leaks at high altitudes? 

If you notice that your fountain pen is repeatedly leaking at high altitudes, it can cause issues. It can leak onto your clothes or documents and cause stains or messy situations that no one wants to deal with. 

There are some things you can do to help control the amount your fountain pen leaks while at high altitudes and also to minimize the amount of inky mess you have to clean up afterward. 

Here are the best things to do to help prevent your fountain pen from leaking all over during travel:

Store fountain pens upright

The biggest tip to prevent your fountain pens from leaking all over the place while in high altitudes is to store them upright. You should always try to keep them stored with their tips up when you expect that they might leak a little bit due to the difference in air pressure. 

Storing them with the tip up will minimize how much ink can squeeze out when the difference in pressure causes some shifts inside your pen. Even if a little bit does leak, it should be minimal if they are stored this way. 

For this reason, make sure your pens are stored in a shirt pocket or tall, skinny pocket in your bag that will allow them to stay in that same position the entire time. 

Pack fountain pens in a carrying case

If you are looking for a way to make sure your pens don’t leak all over your clothes or your bag, put them inside a carrying case of some kind. 

Your pen case doesn’t have to be fancy as long as it seals tightly. 

You can buy a specific pen-carrying case or you could simply use a ziplock bag, reusable bag, or any plastic container. Having your pens in a case will provide a barrier from any ink getting on your clothes or other belongings if your pen does happen to leak. 

You just want to make sure the pen case you are using doesn’t leak because it would defeat the purpose of catching leaks from your fountain pen when you are at high altitudes. 

It is best practice to place your fountain pen inside the case and store it upright to make sure you minimize the risk of any leaks at all. 

Will a fountain pen write at a high altitude?

In addition to your fountain pen being prone to leaking at high altitudes, you also might have a hard time getting your pen to work. If you’re trying to write with your fountain pen at a high altitude, you might notice that it might not write very well.  

You might be able to get your pen to write at a high altitude, but the ink may appear spotty or inconsistent. The difference in air pressure between the air that’s inside your pen and the air around you on an airplane is enough to cause your pen to not behave properly. 

For this reason, it’s best to avoid signing or filling out any important documents until you are back at a regular altitude. This will help you avoid your ink looking spotty, faint, or leaking out in blobs all over your paper. 

You might also consider purchasing a Fisher Space Pen, which can write anywhere (including on an airplane).

How can I fix a leaking fountain pen? 

Once you return to regular altitude, your fountain pen will be “fixed”. 

There isn’t anything special that you need to do to get it to start working well again. The change back to normal air pressure will do that for you. Once you are back at the normal air pressure on the earth’s surface, your pen should work just fine. 

You may need to write with it for a little while before it starts to write like normal, but you shouldn’t need to do more than a few doodles to get it working well again. If your pen leaked at all, you may just need to clean some of the ink off the body of the pen as well. 

Final Thoughts 

Fountain pens work best at ground level. In this case, it’s all about air pressure. Higher altitudes bring lower air pressure than ground-level locations, which causes inconsistency with the air pressure inside your pen. 

Because the inside of your pen is pressurized to match the air pressure at the earth’s surface, you might run into issues like leaking and poor performance if you try to use your pen at a high altitude. 

You can store your pen upright when you will be at a high altitude to help prevent the pen from leaking. It also helps to store your fountain pen in a protective case to catch any ink that might leak before it ruins your clothes, documents, or any other belongings. 

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