The first toilets in airplanes were simple buckets. Information on early flushing systems is not available, however aircraft's cabin were not pressurized and it was easy to open doors and windows...
Today and happily for people leaving close to airports, or under flight paths, there is no more falling manure. However planes still have to be purged of their smelly "unpaid load". Special designed Lavatory Service Carts collect the wastes for final disposal into the airport sewage facility.
The mains constrain in aircraft lavatory concept is weight. Toilets flushing system, even with recycled water, represent an important weight to fly around. Toilet designs offer to passengers and airlines a compromise between comfort and operating cost.
The classical lavatory
This type is mainly seen in aircraft manufactured before the mid 80's and offers passengers a reasonable comfort and flush plentifully. Applying a layer of toilet paper on the stainless steel bowl, before use, guaranty a good wash with a single flush.
The conventional, non confusing, flush handle is used correctly by all passengers. One known incidents is wallet drop of when pulling up pants, the pick-up is easy but requires a generous wash.
The vacuum flush - lavatory
Lavatory with vacuum flush system is standard on all new aircraft. These toilets, designed on a modular concept, can nearly be installed anywhere in the aircraft's cabin. Centralized waste tank and water supply are connected to the toilets with small tubes instead of usual large plumbing pipes. Fast and powerful pumps suck from below the bowls to discharge the sludge into the waste tank.
All bowls have a "non sticking" surface coating. There are two types of exit hole, small on the first generation and large on the latest.
Vacuum toilets are not "user friendly". Some non experimented travellers are confused by the "push button" flushing system and often don't flush. The flush works in two stages, first a small quantity of water is released then a powerful vacuum is activated for around three seconds. There is no visible result, only a scary vacuum noise, and "everything" is still there. Passengers waiting for their turn have to wait longer for the present user to flush few times on attempts, often unsuccessful, to clear their mess.
To leave it clean it is best, before use, to apply a coat of toilet paper on the bottom and side of the bowl. After use, but before flushing, place another layer of toilet paper on the top and with a paper cup pour water (from the washbasin) into the bowl till all paper is wet, then flush. If there no paper cup, do not hesitate to empty all bottles of available perfume...
A known incident, or popular joke of questionable taste, about an obese person been vacuum sucked in the toilet bowl is mostly improbable as the flush push button, behind the user back, is not easily accessible. If it has occurred, the victim is either dead or is easily recognized when seen from behind, eventually the incriminated bowl's type can be identified as well!
Vacuum toilets are fun too. Some flight attendants, when passengers are not yet on board, compete on how fast they can flush away a pre-unrolled length of toilet paper. Parallel races also take place.
Clogged toiletsMainly on long-haul flights toilets are clogged by inconsiderate passengers who discharge solid or semi-solid objects into the bowl. When it happens, cabin attendants paste an "out of order" sign on the toilet door. Classical toilets with their large hole are not easily clogged, even wallets are flushed away! Vacuum toilets, with their small connecting tubes, are badly clogged. Corrective actions are difficult and often takes place at the airlines home base where longer "ground times" are available.
Please Hurry !Some peoples seem to enjoy the toilet hard throne better than their allocated soft seat while frustrated passengers, in urgent need, wait for their turn. Knocking helps, however the most efficient way is to unlock the door.
It is very easy to release the lock from outside, on "classical" toilet door just insert a key, or a pen, in the slot and move it side way - the plastic panel is coupled with the latch. On "vacuum" toilet door, with your fingernail lift the cover and slide the exposed latch. Unlock the door only, do not open it unless you have consulted your lawyer first. User's usual reaction is to re-lock the door and then to quickly finish their business.
In some cases no one is in the toilet, cabin attendants may lock the door from outside either for their own reserved use or because the toilet is out of order.
Surprisingly even if smoking in the toilet is prohibited, lavatory's latest design still includes ashtray! The electric socket in the toilet is for shaver only, do no try to power up your notebook computer.
High Tech Toilet
Airlines normally never miss to advertise for their latest novelties either technological or simply about their passenger comfort. The bottom shower has not yet been advertising for and we do hope that soon it will be done on Television. We have no idea if operating this device through air turbulence represent a source of danger; neither we know if the water is recycled.
Are you concerned by safety on board?
Have a look at an ex-BA flight attendant's recommendations.
Airplane loads off on angler (around July 1998?)
MUNICH, Sun. - German police opened an investigation yesterday after an angler complained he was doused with feces, apparently dropped from a low flying Airbus 320. The man was fishing near Straubing-Wallmuehle airport, northeast of Munich, when he was hit by "some very smelly stuff", police said. He complained of a burning itch and said he had vomited. - AFP (http://afp.com)
Excrement from aircraft hits car (January 13, 2000)
MADRID, Thurs. - A Spanish man narrowly escaped injury when a four-kg ball of ice thought to be frozen human excrement ejected from a passing aircraft fell on his car near the southern city of Seville, authorities said.
The man was about to enter the vehicle when a friend stopped him for a chat. The ball of ice, measuring 20 centimetres then plummeted out of a cloudless sky and crushed the car's bonnet. - Reuters (http://reuters.com)
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