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Everything that happens when you flush a toilet on an airplane

Everything that happens when you flush a toilet on an airplane

People have been surprised to find out what happens after you make a flying visit on a plane.

When you gotta go, you gotta go – even if it is 37,000 ft in the air.

It's one of those things that we never really question - especially when you are desperate for a number two.

However, have you ever actually thought about what happens when you go to the toilet whilst onboard an aeroplane?

Well, for all you frequent flyers out there, here’s exactly what happens when you take a trip to the airplane toilet.

Airplane toilet have a surprisingly complicated system.
Getty/Richard Sharrocks

Contrary to popular belief, waste is rarely jettisoned onto unsuspecting folks below.

Instead, it’s all flushed away with the plumbing taking any excrement to specialised sealed compartments at the back of the plane.

According to TikTok influencer and pilot Garrett Ray, this can happen up to a thousand times on a Boeing 747 during a long-haul flight – which perhaps explains why there’s always a queue.

If you are still curious about what is involved in taking a leak mid-flight, the US pilot also revealed that over 1,211 liters (320 gallons) of waste can be generated during that time.

When you’ve reached your final destination, the waste is then carefully pumped from the plane using a pipe attached to a port.

This is done by airport staff, usually before the plane is able to take flight again.

However, there are, of course, instances where things don’t always go to plan with the high-altitude excrement.

In rare cases, human waste does make an early final descent.
Pexels/Jeffry Surianto

In fact, there is a particularly weird phenomenon known as ‘blue ice’ which can occur on some flights.

Named after the colour of the disinfectant, this is where frozen waste leaks from the aircraft, usually from the service port.

The resulting overflow then makes its final descent onto people below, as the weight becomes too much. (yuk!)

Whilst modern vacuum toilets have made this a rare occurrence, there have been instances where solid blocks of blue sewage have hit people.

One British man was even unfortunate enough to have been splattered in the stuff, after stepping out into his garden in Windsor.

To make matters even worse, the poonami happened just as the UK was coming out of lockdown in 2021 with the BBC reporting that it covered the man’s ‘whole garden, and garden umbrellas, and him’.

Talk about a sh**ty day.

At a later parish meeting, councillor Geoff Paxton explained that such incidents are ‘very rare’.

Having worked at various airports for over 40 years, he told attendees: "We used to have problems with blue ice [frozen human waste and disinfectant] on arrivals but that was because those toilets used to leak."

Honestly, it's enough leave you feeling a little flushed.

Featured Image Credit: Getty Stock Image/Pexels/BrunoHenrique

Topics: Science, Travel, Plane Etiquette