Do Airplanes Dump Their Toilets At 30,000 Feet?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

And you thought that all we do is cover “soft” news here at The Expeditioner. Today we tackle one of those nagging questions we all have as we stand (or squat) above a toilet while cruising in a plane at 30,000 feet: “Is this about to land on some farmer’s house in Iowa?”.

The answer is, sadly, no, planes do not dump their sewage while they are flying, despite a recent news report of a Long Island couple that reported being hit by plane sewage in late February. (In that instance it turns out that a plane did in fact malfunction, dumping treated sewage on the unlucky couple’s home and back yard.)

But take comfort, dumping sewage mid-air is not the norm. As Slate’s Explainer recently investigated, planes — like most cruise ships and your great-aunt Margie — store their sewage on board after it’s been created and dispose of it safely upon reaching their destination.

However, “blue ice” (sewage that has been treated by that blue gunk you see in plane toilets and which has subsequently leaked out of the plane and frozen) once in a while does escape from planes, and sometimes causes damage to the plane or lands in the backyard of random English couples’ homes. However, examples of this are rare, and you can rest assured that the chances of you being pelted by any discharge from that 747 flying overhead are about as likely as you finding any remaining soap in the soap dispenser when you’re done creating blue ice.

Side Note: For those of you with weak stomachs or any sense of dignity, I highly discourage you from doing any sort of Google Image or Flickr search for any combination of the words: “plane toilet” or “lavatory waste.” You’ve been warned.

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