Airplanes were always a wonder to our ancestors. But now, it has become an easily accessible dream for almost all people. However, the airline plumbing systems and toilets are still a mystery for many, including those who have and haven't traveled on a flight.
Mark D Martin, an aviation specialist and CEO of Martin Consulting, said that toilet waste is treated with additives in modern aircraft and then stored in an isolated tank away from the fuel, hydrologic, and air-conditioning lines. He also adds that in the 1970s, the sewer waste lines were not adequately sealed, which resulted in waste leakage during mid-flight. But now, as technology has changed, there is no such issue.
Now, let's look at the timeline of the history of plain toilets:
1. Pre-1930s: Empty buckets at the back of the planes were used as toilets, or no toilet facilities were available.
2. 1930s: The first separate plane lavatory was installed with removable toilet bowls.
3. 1945: First fixed toilet bowl appeared on a long-haul passenger plane.
4. 1958: Inflight lavatories adopted toilets with a flushing system.
5. 1975: James Kemper took a patent for the vacuum toilet.
6. 1982: First vacuum toilet was installed by Boeing in 1982.
What happens when you flush?
The current vacuum toilet system in modern planes was designed by James Kemper in 1974. It was first installed on Boeing in 1982. It works by creating a vacuum, and the water is sucked along with the waste into a holding tank. Then, it is dunked into a tanker at the airport. Even if the pilot or any other flight staff wants to empty this tank in a midflight, it’s not possible since the valve is outside and can be opened only by the ground crew.
Have you heard of “Blue ice”?
You might have come across the term blue ice. It is a term given to the chunks falling from airlines because of leakages in older planes. It is a frozen mixture of water, traces of human waste, and blue sanitizing liquid. In case of leakage in a midflight, this fluid gets condensed into ice due to the low temperature outside.