I hear of people checking their camera equipment and not having a problem. But, I've never checked MY camera. Good heavens!
I have a larger backpack that just sneaks by the airlines' size restrictions. I carry my Arca-Swiss, extra bellows, and five lenses, all protected in their own compartment in the pack. I stow the pack and contents in an upper compartment. Other items, like my polaroid holder, filters, and stuff that's easily replaced are stored in my suitcase, duffle bag, or separately in their own bag.
For smaller planes, I've had to yield my pack at the plane for storage in the luggage area. But, I'm there to pick it up just as it comes out, too.
Do you have home owners or rental insurance? It might be a good idea to have photos, serial numbers, etc., of your equipment available, just in case.