Flight Plan

My flight plan....to encourage, mentor, guide those pining for the sky. I'm also here to virtually open the flight deck door for those who want to take a peek at the many aspects of aviation.....enjoy!

...and welcome aboard!...


The latest "Readbacks"

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Gushing away at FL 370


Craig(Burlington) sent me this pic depicting the controls of Korean toilet.

Hiya Capt. Doug

Your book arrived last week, and I'm enjoying it immensely :-)

Just for fun, here’s a picture of the Korean toilet control I mentioned in my comment to your last blog post. You have probably seen the same or similar in your travels to the Orient, but it was a first for me and quite a surprise, to say the least.


Toilets a.k.a the “lav”

People snicker when toilets are mentioned, but the giggling stops when they are U/S (unserviceable) Caution: viewer discretion is suggested for this post. :)

The lavatory is an integral part of any airplane. Most work on pressure differential i.e. suction. There are pumps which create this pressure difference while on the ground and yes sometimes they fail. Not a problem, above 16,000 they work on their own. We block off the affected washroom (s) and try to keep the seat belt sign on until 16,000 versus the usual 10,000 feet.

The biggest beef passengers had when the small Airbus showed up over twenty years ago was the loud gushing of the toilets. I must admit they do have a little more gumption than Boeing’s.

In fact, we Airbus pilots know a toilet is flushed by the indicated pressure change of 50 to 100 feet on the pressure controller.

On the “big bus” the toilets would be divided left and right and sometimes one side would give up. My duty as a cruise pilot would entail going to the aft cabin where a large handle had to be pulled to reboot the system.

One conversation I heard listening to United’s company frequency in ORD (Chicago) years ago. “Maintenance we have a Lav U/S. Apparently someone left a big dump in there.” Perhaps the pilot in question could have chosen his words a little differently. J

Actually my first officer few months ago (boy I hope he is not reading this) used the “J” class washroom. Well as luck would have it, it wouldn’t flush. Luckily we were still on the ground so we called maintenance. I can still see the shades of red he turned.

For a pilot going to the washroom is somewhat of a procedure ( I won’t get into the details). I always give the previous person a minute or two before I enter.

Yes, it can be embarrassing. Some flight attendants put coffee grinds in there or keep a bottle of “jet spray” (yes, that’s the name) handy.

Remember if you gotta go it takes about three minutes for the air to refresh.

See my attached enRoute question/answer.

Q: How is the cabin air kept fresh? Are filters used?David Clements, Canberra, Australia

Cabin air is continually bled from the engines. This conditioned air is then mixed with a nearly equal amount of highly filtered cabin air. A HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) system filters the air much like filters in hospital surgical rooms. Compared to buildings, however, airliners have even better filtration, a higher air-change rate and a higher proportion of outside air. Cabin air is exchanged every two and a half to three minutes – i.e. flushed 20 to 25 times every hour.

Blue Ice? You may have heard of ‘blue ice’ falling from the sky. Some aircraft lavatories use a ‘donut’ type seal for servicing. Sometimes the seal leaks a little and freezes up at altitude. On rare occasions the ice lets go and in two documented cases has fallen through people’s roofs!

Different plumbing. As a world traveller one gets to see some neat plumbing. The most intriguing were the toilets in our Osaka, Japan hotel. As soon as you sat down you heard multiple water jets arming ready to launch warm water your way.

Many would find this strange, but many cultures have yet to see a toilet. Years ago on "certain" flights extra help was used to explain how to use the toilets. People were standing on them thinking they were a replica of a hole in the ground.

On one of my long haul flights a flight attendant reported a passenger left a large "gift" in the middle of the galley floor. I have more stories, but I will stop there.

Captain Doug the plumber

And speaking of toilets our fairly well to do home had three single piece low squatting designer toilets made in Equador. But they were…well…crappy. (couldn’t resist) (Actually the inventor of the toilet is Thomas Crapper) :) Over the last two weeks I replaced all three...American Standard made in Mexico bought and installed in Canada. (The instructions must have been Chinese translated from Russian).

The plumber’s smile? (hopefully everyone knows that look) :) :) :)

While purchasing my last toilet a stranger came up to me asking whether the show models worked. Then he lit up with a smile. Captain Doug gave him an equivalent “unruly passenger” look. I then scurried away with my toilet in hand. They were on sale- another pilot’s bonus. Anyone out there want three white used designer toilets?

This is what I wrote on page 142 of my book. (For the benefit of those that still don’t have my book…right getjets?) I still laugh at it. The fella that told me this is now a Westjet captain.

And give up aviation?

I’ll never forget how, during a downturn in aviation, we pilots met at a company meeting to hear how the company would be implementing layoffs. A somber mood dominated the group, but during a break a fellow pilot proceeded to tell me an anecdote that summarized the situation perfectly: A pilot doing his routine walk-around neared the rear of the airplane where a ground worker (or lavologist) was servicing the lavatory. He was a low-time pilot trying to infiltrate the business by getting his foot in the door working the ramp, a common practice. As he released the latch to the aircraft’s lavatory, the contents sprayed all over the ramp and unfortunately covered the wannabe pilot from head to toe. Expletives immediately followed. He cursed while jumping up and down in frustration and disgust. The pilot, witnessing this bathroom blowout, came right out and said, “Why don’t you just quit?” The rampie stopped dead in his tracks with a look of bewilderment and said, “And give up aviation?”

Gone Flying (Vegas)



Good morning Captain Doug,

Great post! I thought you were kidding about the Crapper thing but apparently he existed :)

Above 16000 do you shut off the suction pumps or do you leave them going?

What volume does a tank hold? I would imagine that sometimes the suction lines plug and require you to take an aircraft out of service? What a fun procedure that would be!

No loo at 35,000 would NOT be a fun experience....for anyone.

Garde a l'eau!

Happy Flying,

CAT III Approach

ps...you're a few months too late with the toilets....finished the basement in the spring :P


sorry....one more....when you say 50 to 100 ft on the pressure controller....do you mean the cabin pressure drops 50 to 100 ft from 8000 setpoint, or is the holding tank pressure controlled? ( or both )

I notice the RJ pilots go often on the last flight of the day.....cabin bell dings....in charge secures cabin...pulls curtain...contacts flight deck again. ...pilot exits turns red as he/she smiles at the passengers....turns even more red as they exit next to the back rows :):)

I read not too long ago that an F/O pushed a wrong button pushing the nose over a little far as the captain was in disposed....and froze up...not good....captain had to fix the issue with delicate hands.....hopefully he washed them prior to his return!

CAT III Approach

I also notice lots of odd looks wondering where the pilot is going :)


ARTHR ECK J16 BAE ALO OBH J128 HCT DVC J146 ?? Look familiar?

Craig said...

I was in Korea recently and the hotel had the craziest electric toilet. There was a little digital panel on the wall beside it to control its functions, including: heated seat (temp widely adjustable); power seat and lid up/down; water temperature (for the bidet function); nozzle aim for the bidet, with front and rear jets controlled independently; blow dry temp and power setting; and amazingly, a deodorizer function that shot you in the butt with a blast of Old Spice or some similar fragrance. The bidet function had both programmable and manual override controls, and even a massage function. Talk about a first-class can! I want one for the house!

Best of all, it also had a remove. I am not kidding.


carlton said...

Once we were all set for a flight from Amsterdam to Torp (Norway) on board a Fokker 70. All 80 passengers had boarded and just before start up one of the cabin crew discovered that the one 'only toilet' on the aircraft was not working. After approximately one hour of maintenance attempting to repair the toilet - the flight was cancelled, and with no other aircraft available that evening, all passengers were put up in a local hotel - the same hotel as the crew were also put up in. It was interesting in the hotel bar that night, the passengers and their crew sharing a pint or five - and all this because of a toilet!!!!

carlton said...

By the way, another interesting story on toilets at 37,000 feet is in the 'Ask the Pilot Book' by Patrick Smith where he explains (from experience) that ice-cubes and the 'blue-chemicals' used in aircraft lav's really do not mix well, lol!

Cedarglen said...

Nice post, Capt. Doug.
In my 'heavy miles' days of the early 70s, I quickly learned to avoid the lavs whenever possible. The 'Crapper' technology was not great then and I do not think it has improved a lot, so I still avoid them if at all possible. That high altitude 'brings out the best,' is an understatement. Moving on...

getjets said...

I love this post!!!!....its in the details...the fact that you know when the "lav" is flushed when the pressure controller goes from 50 to 100, using the "seat belt sign" to help maintain the traffic flow (no pun) probably away from the "lav". think about it: whether its 'poo', 'pee', or 'quantum physics'....its about the numbers. usually #1 and/or #2!!!and the zillion variations of them!!!!The details you give is what makes "FROM THE FLIGHT DECK" so interesting and different!!! Keep them coming Captain...And as long as its not me in the potty, when the pressure controller goes straight to Zipp!!!! PLUMBERS SMILE....is that the plumbers crack turned on its side...yea i know...tacky lol

getjets said...

yes and getjets finally got her book, never know when you run outa toilet paper. whewwwwwww lol

From the Flight Deck said...

Craig. During slow downs many laid off pilots went back to school or got other jobs.
What combos have I seen here at AC?

Pilot/lawyer (there's quite a few lawyers)
Pilot/doctor (we have at least two)
Pilot/PHD in mathematics
Pilot/Air Traffic Controller (there are several)
Pilot/MBAs (there are several)
Pilot/profesional ball room dancer

Heck, there is even a Pilot/certified meteorologist/author/freelance writer/weather instructor/blogger..... :)

And he is a NICE guy as well. :)

From the Flight Deck said...

CAT III approach.

Good question about the vacuum pumps. I assume they are deactivated.

As far as the volume for the waste tank, another good question. "Jacques from Airbus" didn't think that was useful information.
I just checked my AOM (Aircraft Operating Manual) and it did mention the A320 has a 200 litre potable water tank. The Airbus A340 had two 500 L tanks.

On the flight attendant panel, it depicts the amount of water and waste in percentage.

F.Y.I We do not fly around with full water tanks because of the extra weight.

Oui, garde a l'eau.

Captain Doug

As far as the three toilets, you can turn them into nice designer flower pots. :)

From the Flight Deck said...

CAT III approach.

The cabin pressure does not drop per say, but there is a rate change detection of 50 to 100 feet/min. But the detection and rate change is very quick.

I don't know much about the RJ world but as far as funny looks, you should see the passenger reaction when we A340 pilots crawled out of the bunk beds.
We would get up with serious "bed head," looking kinda of stunned from our rest in the bunks directly behind the flight deck. Then we had to walk to the aft of J class where the washrooms were. It was embarrassing at times. :)

I remember several times making the bed with fresh linen, taking off my uniform, putting on my P.Js, crawling into the bunk (you had to be a bit of a contortionist), turning off the lights and THEN realizing...oh no...I have to pee! :)

Captain Doug

From the Flight Deck said...

Craig. Sounds like the Koreans take their toilets just as serious as the Japanese...even more!

I guess you know you have "arrived" in life when you have a remote for the toilet! lol

Captain Doug

From the Flight Deck said...

CAT III approach. Good for you to find our route. We got some turbulence over DVC (Dove Creek) for about 2 to 3 minutes.

Captain Doug

From the Flight Deck said...

Carlton. Great story! Thanks foe sharing this. Yes, a toilet can be a major issue!

I'm glad to hear the passengers were talking to the crew after that. :)

But then again, what can you do?

Captain Doug

From the Flight Deck said...

Carlton. Yes, I remember Pat Smith's rendition. I thought it was hilarious. That guy can write!
His vocabulary and choice of words still amazes me!

Captain Doug

From the Flight Deck said...

I too avoid them for certain things. ahem
But then again, is an airport toilet much cleaner?

I hear ya about the "high altitude" affect. Especially on long haul flights when the passengers have been fed and then they fall asleep. Lots of involuntary "tooting" going on.
Flight attendants say they get used to it, but I bet that's not in their job description!

Captain Doug

WILLO2D said...

You appear to be flushed with success with this one, Doug.

My last word(s) on this: found this rather apposite image on Sunday - "Aim to please!" or "Would patrons please refrain from standing on the tables when using the facilities".

Cheers / IanH


A very lavish restaurant indeed IanH!

Ian has found a use for your designer toilets Doug :)

CAT III Approach

From the Flight Deck said...

Getjets. Thanks for the positive feedback....yet again. I'll be posting sometime today on new hire pilot profiles.

You have it right about the plumber's smile. :)

Captain Doug

From the Flight Deck said...

IanH. Thanks for the pic. I would have to drink lots of "P"s and "Q"s to make those urinals. :) :) :)

Actually a friend flight attendant mentioned a restaurant in Hong Kong which had a toilet theme.
He sent me pictures long ago. I believe you actually sit on toilets.

I'm not sure if any of that does it for me. :)

Thanks Ian H


From the Flight Deck said...

CAT III Approach

Maybe I better hold off in getting rid of those toilets? They could end up in some designer restaurant here in Toronto. lol

Captain Doug


Captain Doug,

Designer restaurant with toilets?? I think you're on to something......

"From the Poop Deck"........

too early....way to early...lol.

CAT III Approach

From the Flight Deck said...

CAT III Approach

"From the Poop Deck" ????

Don't know if it will fly...... :)

getjets said...

Nice I-pod ;o


True, but it may float......or sink :) :) :) not fly but contain flies.......

Now I am way over tired.....

CAT III Approach

getjets said...

while we're on the subject of career combos....heres a combo----Aviation geek/PROFESSIONAL sh!t stirrrrr

From the Flight Deck said...

Now getjets... who would that be? :)

getjets said...

that obvious...huh..but I think there's a couple runner's up in the mix...but I could be wrong...naaaa