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Originally posted by Destino

I don't think that's possible.....and I hope I'm right.

I hope so too, but if this story is true, then it's within the realm of possibility.

Forgive my gallows humor, gang.


Friday October 31, 2003 Previous | Next

Dear Yahoo!:

Where does the flushed waste from airplane toilets go while in flight?


Rockville, Maryland

Dear Curious:

When you're traveling a mile high in the sky, an airline toilet has to function a little differently than the one found in your home. That's because you're faced with a finite amount of space for septic tanks, pipes, water, and other plumbing components in a pressurized cabin environment.

HowStuffWorks.com offers this excellent overview on commercial aircraft plumbing. We learned that ingenious engineers devised vacuum toilets, which don't have to rely on gravity and a water-filled toilet bowl to flush out waste. When you flush a vacuum toilet, waste and a small amount of blue sanitizing liquid are sucked into a septic holding tank. Because the vacuums are so powerful, the pipes can be fairly narrow and very little water is necessary to "get the job done." And since gravity is not involved, the sewer pipes can be run straight up to conserve space.

Some creative web surfing led us to an FAA document on "management of aircraft washes and similar wastes." On page 29, we found a diagram of air flotation treatment systems. The document further explains how wastes are collected, separated, and treated in a specially devised tank system. However, it doesn't elaborate on waste disposal.

While we could not find specific FAA documents on disposal regulations, it's common knowledge that the so-called "blue ice" or "brown goo" that accumulates within airplanes does drop onto unsuspecting targets from time to time.

Recently, an unlucky resident of Santa Cruz, California, received a special blue ice delivery courtesy of an American Airlines plane right through the skylight of his boat. He took the airline to small claims court and won a modest sum. A Pittsburgh woman's home was also subject to such a delivery. Other folks describe mysterious biological material that appears splattered around their houses and property.

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