"Mommy! Mommy! Where does my poop go?"
We hear this at least once a day from kids on flights around the world. But their numbers are exceeded by the amount of inquisitive requests from adults who want to know the intricacies of poop transportation in airplanes.
So, in brief, let's have a look at how it's done.
Passengers on a four-hour flight produce more poop than you could ever imagine. Out of a group of 100 passengers, we aim for a hit ratio of 1:2. That is one passenger pooping out of every two who get on-board. Four to six hours is the high-level pooping session on an aircraft because it is usually about two hours after a meal when folks begin to get an 'urge'.
Aircraft, as you may have worked out, do not use conventional toilets. Instead, they work on a very efficient vacuum system. On big airliners, we make use of the low pressure on the outside of the aircraft and use it in tandem with the high pressure on the inside. So when we open a valve that allows the high pressure air in the toilet to exit through the outflow valve, your pooped gets pushed along with it, and is diverted at the last second into a holding tank.
Myth buster: We do not release your poop into the sky!
Planes use a vacuum toilet system because it is quick, efficient and uses very little water. A typical toilet in a house will use up to ten liters of water in a single flush while an aircraft toilet uses about 1.5 liters for the same job. It also contains a sterilizing liquid to ensure that the bowl is clean and safe for the next user.
When the aircraft lands, ground personnel will connect a very heavy-duty hose to the holding tank that I spoke about earlier. They empty your poop into a mobile waste tank, and they also top-up the toilet system with blue sterilizing chemicals to ensure optimum efficiency. Some nice airlines will also add some deodorant to the mix! Jasmine-scented poop is always a better option.
On a lighter note, a popular game amongst ground crews is to place one end of a roll of toilet paper into the bowl on either side of a plane's aisle at the back and then unravel the roll all the way to the front.
The object of the game is to keep flushing the toilet until the roll is fully ingested into the system. The first crew member to get all of their paper flushed into the toilet is the winner!
With laughter being the best medicine, watching the lines of paper disappearing up the aisle is always a good stress-reliever.
So I hope that this article has cleared up the issue of what happens to your business after it is done. In the coming weeks I hope to add more explanations about the bizarre and obscure elements of air travel for you.
In the meantime, sit back, relax and enjoy your flight.