Dusty Flight Case
Introductory price: $2795
Please call to order
February 2021 update: We do not currently have flight cases available, and the timeline is uncertain, but we would still love to talk with you if you are considering ordering one! To give a brief explanation, we've recently learned that the flight case, if turned on its side and piled with more than 300 lbs. of luggage, has the potential to develop a crack in the shell. It has not impacted the safety of the harp inside, but it does cause concern for the longevity of the case under the kinds of extreme loads that are possible. So, at this time, we are reengineering the shell structure to withstand more weight. It could mean small increases in price and weight but we believe those are necessary trade-offs for our customers' confidence in the travel safety of their harps. We don't have details yet, so we've put a hold on taking case orders until the modified design is worked out and in production. Please contact us if you have questions or would like to be notified when we have more information!
Flying with a harp can be one of the greatest challenges of a harp player's existence, especially since off-the-shelf flight cases haven’t been readily available for harps the way they are for many other instruments. We’ve found that harp players are quite resourceful on the whole, and have come up with all sorts of creative solutions to this problem, but there’s still commonly a feeling of dread when taking a harp to the airport. Will the harp survive the trip? Will the harp player survive the struggle of dragging an unwieldy box through the airport with all of their other luggage?
We set out to make this easier, and we’re thrilled to report that we have achieved the following goals with our flight case:
Keeps the harp safe from the unpredictable treatment of TSA officers, baggage handlers, and the weather
- Shell is shaped for maximum rigidity
- “Handle With Care – Musical Instrument” tag is included
- Labels on the case tell TSA how to open it safely
- Scuff pads protect the points on the case that commonly contact the ground
- Recessed safety latches lock in the shut position, and are easy to open by pinching a spring tab
- Heat-reflective coating adds a layer of protection from the sun
- Rubber seal will resist a moderate rain shower
Makes it possible to avoid over-weight baggage fees ($75-$300 per flight, depending on the airline and destination)
- Carbon fiber provides a high degree of strength at a comparatively light weight
- Flight case weighs just under 21 pounds
- Designed to safely hold the harp without its soft case, in order to reduce weight
Makes the trips to and from the airport as stress-free as possible
- Sleek, streamlined shape is easily maneuverable by a single person
- Glides effortlessly along on four wheels (with swivel wheels in the front)
- Or tip it up on two wheels and push or pull it like a hand truck or harp trolley. It easily goes up and down stairs this way!
Fits a variety of harps, not just Dusty Strings models
- Broadly speaking, this case fits 34-string and smaller harps. For more details, see the Sizing tab on this page.
- Configurable and removable foam padding means you can use the same case for multiple different harps
- Optional suspension harness can be used to secure harps that are smaller than the foam padding will accommodate
- Swivel wheels can be easily removed at the airport and stowed in your luggage, keeping them safe from damage during the flight
- Lid stay keeps the lid from falling all the way open, and is removable for times when you want to separate the two halves of the case
Our one regret is that this project turned out to be far more expensive than we had anticipated. We know the price is not going to be easy for some harp players to afford, and we want to acknowledge that fact frankly and sympathetically. We spent lots of time and resources exploring lower cost avenues before ending up here. Our main purpose was to make it easier and more enjoyable for harp players to travel with their very own instrument, and to eliminate the hassles of getting a harp through the airport by oneself. It was difficult for us to finally acknowledge that we would need to sacrifice either our pricing goals or our usability goals.
After considering several different materials, we found that carbon fiber, though expensive, gave us the stiffness-to-weight ratio that would provide the best protection without pushing the whole package over 50 pounds. It also allowed us to make the case large enough to fit a range of different harps, and still give it a sleek and streamlined shape. This shape makes it possible to slip the case into the back seat of a taxi or load it on the bus, to easily handle both the harp case and a roller suitcase without needing a cart, and even to use the hard case as a substitute for a soft case when it isn’t practical to have both. We also put in some other features like a temperature insulating coating, recessed safety latches, and removable front wheels, and we chose to work with a small carbon fiber shop right here in Seattle, WA, USA. All of these things, as well as extensive development costs, are factored into the price.
We hope it will be a worthwhile investment in security and stress-free travel, as well as a classy and professional travel companion, but we recognize that it’s a stretch for many harp players. These are the times when we sincerely wish we were a larger company and could afford to make accommodations for touring artists, but that’s not something we can manage at this point. Instead, we’ve done everything we can to keep the price as low as possible!
Will this case fit my harp? See the Sizing tab for more information on this subject.
Can one case be used for multiple harps? Yes. The inner padding is designed to be custom-fit to your harp, but theoretically you could have multiple sets of padding that you swap out depending on which harp you're traveling with.
Will you be making a larger case? We designed this one around our 34-string harps, since those are more commonly traveled with than our 36s, and have a better chance of coming in under the airline over-weight limit. It's not out of the question that we might design a larger case at some point, but the development costs are quite high, and it's not on our immediate list. We will be happy to gauge the interest in a larger case, so let us know what you're hoping for.
How does it work at the airport? You check the harp just like you would a suitcase. If it's under 50 pounds, you can expect to pay over-size baggage fees, but not over-weight fees. Generally with over-size baggage, there is an area near the ticket counter where you'll drop it off after it's paid for and tagged. Depending on where TSA inspections happen at that airport, you may be able to watch them open it, or you may not. We've tried to design the case to be as easy as possible to understand, so that TSA won't have trouble closing it back up securely. When your flight arrives, you'll pick up the harp at the oversize baggage claim, usually right near the baggage carousel.
Does the soft case fit inside? It's possible, but it will depend on the size of the harp and the thickness of the case. Keep in mind that the under-50-pounds goal is much easier to achieve when the harp is caseless, or clothed in just a thin sheet or dust cover.
How easy is it to handle? The case can be towed along behind or beside you on four wheels, and it basically glides effortlessly. It's just like a four-wheeled suitcase. You can also tip it up on the two larger wheels and push or pull it like a harp cart or hand truck, which is useful for going up and down stairs or threading your way through a crowd. The compact size means it will fit almost anywhere your harp would fit, so you shouldn't need to specify a van when you're calling a taxi.
How durable is it, and why do you pack it with so much padding for shipping? We're not worried about the structural integrity of the case, but we take care to pack it with lots of padding in order to preserve the glossy finish during shipping so that it arrives to its first owner looking sleek and shiny. Sadly, it won't look that way for very long! In very short order, in the course of normal use, the case will start to get scuffed and scratched, areas of finish may rub away, and the top coating may even crack and flake off in a few places if the case takes a hard enough blow to flex the carbon fiber fabric. None of this is a problem as far as safety and durability are concerned. The flight case's true purpose is to sacrifice its own surface beauty in order to protect the beloved harp inside, and its true inner beauty is in its strength of character and moral (carbon) fiber! If you decide at some point that it's important to you to shine up your case again, you should be able to take it to anyone who does auto body or fiberglass boat repairs.
If I can’t afford this, what are my other options? In our experience, harp players and harp builders are an extraordinarily creative bunch, and people have found many different ways to approach harp travel. Here are a few ideas we’ve seen and heard:
- Arrange to borrow or rent a harp at your destination
- Make your own hard case (Sligo Harps has plans on their website) or build a padded crate
- Use a cardboard shipping box with bubble wrap or foam padding inside, and replace the box when it gets too beat-up
- Join forces with another harpist in your area and buy a Dusty case to share, or rent it to others when you’re not using it
Do you guarantee that nothing will happen to my harp? We have put all our structural engineering know-how and our 30-plus years of harp shipping experience into this project, and we feel confident that it's a very good choice for flying with your harp. However, with the unpredictability of shipping services and baggage handling, there are factors that are beyond our control, and we can't make any guarantees. We highly recommend insuring your harp (and your flight case) before you travel!
Whether this case will fit your harp can be a difficult question to answer long-distance. We know for sure that it will fit Dusty Strings 34-string and smaller harps. In order to be as useful as possible, we designed it to fit a variety of other harps as well, and we are working on compiling a list of compatible makes and models. We are also organizing a printable template that you can use to determine for yourself if your harp will fit, and we'll have more information on that soon. Right now, we can tell you that if your harp is taller than about 49 inches (124 cm) at the back (from the floor to the top of the neck where it rests on the soundbox) or about 51½ inches (130 cm) at the top of the column, it is probably too big for this case. Give us a call if you have questions!
If you lost yours, or just want to see what it's all about before you order a case, you can download the foam configuration diagram and measuring worksheet here.