Where does Plane Waste go? What happen when you flush the toilet?
Surely if you've ever traveled by plane, you've asked yourself, "Where does plane waste go?". This is a common question whenever we use the restroom, especially since there is no plumbing when we go 30,000 feet in the air.
This can be quite a mystery to many people who don't know how airplane toilets work. You may think that once you turn down the toilet lever, the waste will be flushed through the skies, but today we will learn what actually happens.
How do airplane toilets work?
You've probably thought that airplane waste is disposed of through the bottom of the plane during the trip. And you're not the only one. In the old airplanes, there were toilets that were primitive and direct, in which a rather old-fashioned collection system was used.
However, airlines in the past have also implemented technology that uses a deodorizing gel that takes care of waste and odor. These systems had a drawback, and that is that they needed to store many gallons of waste. This resulted in them being very heavy and wasting a lot of fuel during the flight.
In addition, on some occasions, this waste could leak out of the aircraft, where it would freeze. As the aircraft descends, it may drop blue gel combined with feces which sometimes falls to the ground at high speed, causing damage to cars and houses.
Fortunately, this is no longer the case, thanks to the most modern systems which make it possible to prevent waste from being thrown out of the aircraft.
Where do airplanes dump their waste?
Modern toilets were designed by James Kemper in 1975. They feature a nonstick bowl with a small amount of disinfectant liquid and a suction system. Today, when you lower the lever, a trap door at the base opens to release the liquid very quickly.
The waste travels through a pipe where you can just hear a buzzing sound until it reaches sealed tanks. These tanks are located away from the passengers and remain so until the plane lands.
It is estimated that on a long 747 flight, travelers may descend to the toilet about 1,000 times. This creates a total of 230 gallons of waste, which is disposed of in the airport's subway systems.
Modern systems do not dump waste out of the aircraft while it is in flight. This is because the door that holds the waste in the tank has external clips that prevent any unexpected accidents.
How do vacuum toilets work?
These are the most commonly used toilets today, and they are the ones we have already talked about a bit, but let's get to know them in more depth:
- When you press the flush, water will flow out to flush away debris.
- A vacuum will be generated to carry the waste to a general deposit.
- Feces from all toilets will end up together centrally in the wastewater tank.
- Everything is connected through a system of pipes that go to the tank.
However, on some aircraft, the toilets may be divided into separate subsystems as is the case on the Airbus A-380. Normally aircraft waste tanks usually have a capacity in excess of 1000 liters. This is sufficient for the vast majority of trips.
The great advantage of this type of toilet is the weight savings over older models that used only the chemical solution. However, these systems are prone to failure and are more complex to fix.
How is the waste system of an aircraft emptied?
When the aircraft is on the ground, the pilots will have nothing to do with the system to remove debris from the aircraft. This is done for safety so that they cannot open the system while the aircraft is in the air to prevent debris from falling to the ground.
While the aircraft is on the runway, airport personnel will be responsible for connecting the appropriate machinery to drain the debris from the aircraft. This is usually done at the same time as refueling because both are located at the rear.
The water from the galleys and sinks is the only waste that will be expelled to the outside. This water is expelled directly to the outside through the use of drainage masts located in the belly of the aircraft.
While this process is being carried out, the aircraft restrooms cannot be used, which is why it is advised passengers make use of the restrooms at the airport. Pilots must also get off the aircraft if they need to enter the restroom during this procedure, otherwise they will interfere with it.