Pilot reveals how passenger aircraft toilets are emptied – and bizarrely why it’s a popular job with ground crew
It’s an urban myth that waste from passenger aircraft is released mid-flight.
Veteran Air Canada Dreamliner captain Doug Morris explains that lavatories on planes are actually serviced at airports, on ‘most ground stops on long-haul flights and less so for short-hop flights’.
The waste is flushed to holding tanks at the rear of the plane.
In his fascinating book This Is Your Captain Speaking (ECW Press), Captain Morris explains: ‘There is an access panel near the rear (no pun intended) of the airplane to allow the holding tanks to be sucked of human sewage.’
What’s more, the job of emptying the tanks, he reveals, is ‘sought after at many airlines among the ramp attendants, because if they get it, that becomes their only duty’.
Veteran Air Canada Dreamliner captain Doug Morris explains that lavatories on planes are serviced at airports – and that emptying the tanks is a sought-after job
He continues: ‘They drive from airplane rear to airplane rear with possible extended breaks.
‘Special biohazard suits and masks are worn by these “lavologists”. And the sewage must be “dumped” at a designated biohazard site at the airport.’
Captain Morris stresses in his book that toilet servicing is ‘a huge component of flight operations’.
He explains: ‘If a washroom is deemed unserviceable, it may not be an issue; however, charts are consulted to decide whether operations will be hindered.
‘The number of passengers and duration of flight will dictate the number of required serviceable lavatories.
‘Having washrooms go unserviceable on a long-haul flight could mean a diversion. Yes, it’s that serious.’
Captain Morris’s toilet-based revelations don’t end there.
He also reveals that on the Dreamliner and the Boeing 777, the flight crew via cabin cameras can see the forward washroom – and over the years he’s witnessed a few memorable sights.
High-flyer: Veteran Air Canada Dreamliner captain Doug Morris
He writes: ‘First, many passengers take several seconds figuring out how the door works. Back in the day, it would be comparable to opening a phone booth. Just push!
‘Then there are people venturing to the washroom in their bare feet or socks.
‘That liquid on the floor may not be water. Think turbulence and poor aim.’
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This Is Your Captain Speaking (ECW Press) is out now
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Pilot reveals how aeroplane toilets are emptied