A new way for fighter pilots to pee
January 8, 2019 6:54 PM   Subscribe

 
You know, it never occurred to me (why would it?) that military pilots might do a thing such as "tactical dehydration" so that they don't need to wee while on mission. I sometimes jolt awake in sheer panic in the middle of the night because I fancy a nice sip of water. I can't imagine how upsetting it would be to be thirsty while strafing a Bad Guy HQ or whatever.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:04 PM on January 8 [4 favorites]


What does the "control unit" do? Other than display a lot of really nice LED's, I mean.
posted by adam hominem at 7:22 PM on January 8


I had assumed they all wore adult diapers (like that astronaut who was arrested years ago), so this would definitely be a step up.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:25 PM on January 8 [2 favorites]


I feel kind of silly because I thought this actually had been in use for years. I thought military pilots on long missions had something strapped onto their wossnames to funnel pee downward and out. I am not a real spatial thinker.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:25 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


Save lives?
posted by PHINC at 7:31 PM on January 8


"Thanks, Stadium Pal!" [SLYT Sedaris]
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:36 PM on January 8 [5 favorites]


Save lives?

In the past, pilots would drink less water to limit urine output during a flight -- which can be a fatal mistake. Dehydration fatally impacts G-tolerance, situational awareness and decision-making ability for pilots maneuvering highly sophisticated fighter jets.
posted by Dr. Twist at 7:39 PM on January 8 [6 favorites]


And When Nature Calls, here's how the greatest generation handled things in WWII:
Avro Lancaster Bomber — One unknown airman describes his hatred of the Elsan [chemical toilet]: "While we were flying in rough air, this devils convenience often shared its contents with the floor of the aircraft, the walls, and ceiling and sometimes, a bit remained in the container itself. It doesn't take much imagination to picture what it was like trying to combat fear and airsickness while struggling to remove enough gear in cramped quarters and at the same time trying to use the bloody Elsan. If it wasn't an invention of the devil, it certainly must have been one foisted on us by the enemy. When seated in frigid cold amid the cacophony of roaring engines and whistling air, away from what should have been one of life's peaceful moments, the occupant had a chance to fully ponder the miserable condition of his life. This loathsome creation invariably overflowed on long trips and in turbulence was always prone to bathe the nether regions of the user. It was one of the true reminders to me that war is hell."

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress — "A sometimes humourous and usually urgent problem encountered was the elimination of liquid waste. On combat missions, we were often frightened and urine accumulated in large amounts during long missions. The outlet provided was a funnel and tube located in the bomb bay, which opened to the external air stream. This facility was used mostly by the pilots, flight engineer and radioman because of the easy accessibility to them. Other crew members had some access problems, especially when encumbered by oxygen hook-ups. Some carried sizeable cardboard food containers for such use."

"Returning from a mission over Germany, my crew had the trots and took it in turn to crap in a cardboard box which was quickly jettisoned. As the box fell, it hit the windscreen of a trailing B-17 in the formation and lodged frozen solid blocking the pilots view. Upon returning to base in England, the pilot had to land his aircraft by sticking his head out of the cockpit side window."

Boeing B-29 Superfortress — "The whole crew was trying to hold back the 'runs' or 'trots' so we decided to open the bomb bay doors and to take it in turns to do what needed to be done in a more or less 'bombs away' fashion. Again air turbulence in the bomb bay was not kind to us and we ended up coating every nook and cranny of the bomb bay. What did make it into the slipstream streaked the underside of the aircraft and we would pay the price. The odour was forever with that plane and in the 120 degrees in the shade in India where our base was located, it was intolerable. The following day after our arrival back at base, we spent most of the day in the hot sun trying to clean up our airplane. So much for the glamour of combat flying."

North American P-51 Mustang — "Oh no! The exterior exhaust end of the relief tube is iced up. There I sit, half finished, holding a container of steaming urine in my hand. My dilemma is abruptly terminated by an urgent radio call from my wing man. Red Leader, bandits seven o'clock high, coming in on your tail. Break left!

Disregarding everything, I grab the throttle and control stick and snap into a defensive Lufberry turn. The unconfined liquid splashed onto the windshield and canopy, freezing instantly. Tearing the gloves off my hands with my teeth, I frantically scratched at the yellow coating of ice restricting my visibility. At the same time, I kept my aircraft trembling on the edge of a high speed stall. My unrestricted visibility returned after the longest and busiest five minutes of my life, to reveal an empty sky. The lonely flight back to base, plus landing, proved uneventful.

My crew chief waited faithfully as I taxied back to the revetment area. After I parked and opened the canopy, this imperturbable mechanic stood on the wing and leaned into the cockpit to help me unbuckle all the straps. He sniffed the air like a bird dog and casually remarked;.It smells like you wus awful scared cap'n."
...more stories at the website.
posted by cenoxo at 8:09 PM on January 8 [67 favorites]


The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center's Human Systems Division

Well that's a frankly terrifyingly Orwellian name for something but I applaud them for investing something that penis-havers can't even use. This sounds like I'm being sarcastic but I am kind of amazed that money was spent on this.
posted by bleep at 8:13 PM on January 8 [2 favorites]


I feel kind of silly because I thought this actually had been in use for years.

Men have been using vaguely similar devices for eons. This thing purports to be better for men and waaaay better for women.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 8:48 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


I was always warned to never hug a stock car racer after the race as everything below the waist was not sweat. It is my understanding that they just pee themselves. Usually they sweat it out before it becomes necessary to urinate.
posted by AugustWest at 8:54 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


I can’t believe I didn’t title this the Top Gun origined “I feel the need—the need to pee!”
posted by ShooBoo at 8:57 PM on January 8 [8 favorites]


I was always warned to never hug a stock car racer after the race as everything below the waist was not sweat.

I understand it is also a bad idea to buy a used wetsuit.
posted by each day we work at 9:53 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


The glamour of things like marathon runner, fighter pilot, racecar driver does become diminished when you find out how much pissing/shitting yourself is involved. Yeesh.
posted by emjaybee at 9:56 PM on January 8 [2 favorites]


This post is not going to win the January Post Contest Poo or Butt post contests.
posted by hippybear at 10:08 PM on January 8


Woot! One of the recent Cracked podcasts talked a bit about how depictions of WWI and II dogfights tend to leave out the fact that they had no idea about how to deal with waste, and planes ended up smelling like porta-potties. Thankgod we've moved from not thinking about it, to thinking about it, to thinking about it in a paradigm that doesn't assume male is standard. Progress!
posted by es_de_bah at 10:10 PM on January 8 [3 favorites]


These items would be very useful for long road trips!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 10:35 PM on January 8


Oh yeah, always have to rinse out your wetsuit after.
posted by lostburner at 1:40 AM on January 9


I can’t believe I didn’t title this the Top Gun origined “I feel the need—the need to pee!”

something something danger zone
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:28 AM on January 9 [3 favorites]


My work used to fly a 1944 DC-3 as a remote sensing platform (for which it was an excellent airframe). Typical flight time on missions was 6-8 hours, so everyone had to go at some point. Crews were 4-5 people.

The "facilities" on board though, I don't miss those: a 5-gal pail lined with a baggie in the tail compartment. If you were lucky, the crew remembered to put in the couple of 2x4s which were the "seat" as well.
posted by bonehead at 5:35 AM on January 9 [3 favorites]


I know that folks who do deep sea submersible work (like for Wood's Hole, etc) will often engage in tactical dehydration for similar reasons.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:53 AM on January 9


From Space Safety Magazine, Why Alan Shepard Had to Pee in His Spacesuit:
Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, would probably have had a story to tell about this topic. “Do it in the suit!” – that’s what he heard back from the ground control center after inquiring how he can relieve himself during the Mercury Redstone 3 mission.

The incident, first openly described by Tom Wolfe in his book ‘The Right Stuff,” provoked historian Hunter Hollins to dig deeper into the issues of space-urination.

The results of his research have recently been published in the journal Advances in Physiology Education [detailed article: Forgotten hardware: how to urinate in a spacesuit]. “I was really amazed and kind of incredulous that they let him urinate in his space suit,” Hollins told ABC News in a recent interview, obviously reluctant to believe the great American rocket scientists could have forgotten about such basic human needs (or did they believe the super-human astronaut would be free from animal urges?).

According to available accounts, Alan Shepard, not having other options, peed into his space suit, short circuiting electronic sensors designed to monitor his heart and respiration.
...more in the article’s subsection Peeing in Space: NASA Looks for a Solution.

When you gotta go, you gotta go.
posted by cenoxo at 5:57 AM on January 9 [2 favorites]


Thank you, cenoxo, for making me cry with laughter during a long VC call in work, at the exact moment the project manager was telling everyone that it was really important to have estimates on tasks.
posted by kersplunk at 6:00 AM on January 9


I fly my 4 seat airplane (don't hate: it's cheaper than having a child) as much as 10 hours at a stretch and use one of these or these as a human factors aircraft range extension device. The first one apparently can be used by a woman, but so far Mrs. exogenous has preferred landing to use the facilities.
posted by exogenous at 6:25 AM on January 9 [1 favorite]


How timely; I was just reading A God in Ruins last night and there was a long section about bomber flights and talking about the Elsan and I had no idea what it was (though could guess) but now I do!
posted by little cow make small moo at 6:26 AM on January 9


Halloween Jack: Iiiii weeeent iiiin the danger zone
posted by wellred at 6:38 AM on January 9 [4 favorites]


My Dad was a flight surgeon for the Military and he flew planes (training) and went out with jets regularly as a passenger. As I recall, they did have a kind of funnel/catheter system but he said it was uncomfortable and leaked so dehydration was the way to go. Don’t you want your alcoholic surgeon showing up dehydrated to perform emergency surgery in a remote field location? Better than not at all, I suppose.
posted by amanda at 7:04 AM on January 9


North American P-51 Mustang — "Oh no! The exterior exhaust end of the relief tube is iced up"

Ahhh, the relief tube: "Mounts on fuselage bottom and produces required suction to horn and outlet tubes for fluid ejection." Sounds like they could have used some way to keep it defrosted, like they do for heated pitot tubes.
posted by exogenous at 9:09 AM on January 9


Blue Ice, or How Airplane Toilets (Mostly) Stopped Dropping Frozen Sewage From the Sky:
On a balmy Thursday in February 2012, Artie Hughes and his wife were on the deck of their Long Island home, enjoying a spot of unseasonably warm weather. The early-evening calm had a palpable effect, and they basked in the unexpected mildness.

Then, from the sky, came a resounding splat. Blackish-green drek raining down on them as a plane flew overhead near JFK. Hughes’ wife -- who was never named in media reports, luckily for her Google footprint -- bore the brunt of the freak incident.

“Some black liquid, black oil came off on her face, and I walked around and I looked and said ‘Oh my God,’” Artie told reporters. “There was quarter-sized, nickel-sized, dime-sized drops all over my deck, my barbecue.”

At first, Hughes figured the stuff might be hydraulic fluid dripping from a passenger plane. He called police, who broke some grim news: They’d been doused in human excrement. Media attention followed, and Hughes, fuming, asked questions that were short on answers: “Was a button pushed? Was the lavatory filled to capacity before [the plane] actually left the ground?”
Outgoing, INCOMING!
posted by cenoxo at 9:40 AM on January 9


The "facilities" on board though, I don't miss those: a 5-gal pail lined with a baggie in the tail compartment.

I have been on board several Air Force large aircraft, and the worst was the B-52 which was similar to this. The "habitable section" has basically not been improved since the planes were first built. During the visit, our escort pointed out the pail that they pissed in and the box used for shitting. Completely open to view and across the aisle from the bunks. (The decks are also only about five feet high, so just about everyone needs to hunch over all the time but that's a whole other issue.)

The 707-ish variants I've been in (E-3, KC-135, etc.) have actual toilet cubicles like you'd see in any modern airliner, except the interior has no running plumbing. Just a seat over an open tank filled with chemicals, like a porta-john. In the E-3, this cubicle is way in the back next to the kitchen. Right behind the cockpit, there's a urinal (again, porta-potty style - just a molded plastic receptacle and a pipe that goes... somewhere) with a small curtain for privacy. When I worked on those, they were in the process of decommissioning the urinals.

I've never attempted the various devices made for private pilots. I much prefer getting out and stretching my legs.
posted by backseatpilot at 10:22 AM on January 9 [3 favorites]


More on the spot pot details from B-52 crew members in the Quora question > Is there any toilet in Boeing B-52 Stratofortress?:
...At your left elbow is an intercom panel and an oxygen panel. Good idea to get hooked up to both since you’ve alerted the crew that you will be out of your seat to take a dump and now the pilot needs to know you’re on the pot and strapped in. Oh yeah, fasten your seatbelt, just like on the airline.
posted by cenoxo at 11:42 AM on January 9


(I should mention I was bleeding heavily from a self-inflicted head wound while on the B-52, so some of my memories may be a little spotty.)
posted by backseatpilot at 11:54 AM on January 9 [5 favorites]


MetaFilter: I should mention I was bleeding heavily from a self-inflicted head wound
posted by hippybear at 7:48 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


The 707-ish variants I've been in (E-3, KC-135, etc.) have actual toilet cubicles like you'd see in any modern airliner, except the interior has no running plumbing. Just a seat over an open tank filled with chemicals, like a porta-john. In the E-3, this cubicle is way in the back next to the kitchen.

posted by backseatpilot

Eponys...
posted by kersplunk at 2:29 AM on January 10


The incident, first openly described by Tom Wolfe in his book ‘The Right Stuff,” provoked historian Hunter Hollins to dig deeper into the issues of space-urination. [... ] The results of his research have recently been published in the journal Advances in Physiology Education

The article is from 2013 but Mary Roach already talked about the issue at large in a chapter of Packing for Mars three years before...

(The book, as everything from Ms Roach, is a delight to read and you should give it a look)
posted by sukeban at 2:42 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


> ...Mary Roach... Packing for Mars

Sounds pretty interesting: I found a used copy online.

Mary Roach (and perhaps Tom Wolfe?) may have used the following source material*:
NASA Technical Reports Server
Biomedical Results of Apollo
Jan 01, 1975
[abstract, full PDF download]

Introduction to Section 6, Chapter 2. Waste Management System, p. 469:

Defecation and urination have been bothersome aspects of space travel from the beginning of manned space flight. Ideally, waste management systems for use in space would permit elimination of body wastes-and their collection to be accomplished as simply as they are on Earth. In the weightless environment, however, this is a difficult goal to achieve. Waste handling equipment must not only be designed to function in zero gravity, but must do so within the constraints of size, weight, and power imposed by spacecraft systems. These restrictions resulted in the use of the waste management systems described in this chapter.

The urine collection and transfer processes, with only minor modifications, were essentially the same for Apollo missions as they were for all prior United States space missions. Very simply described, the prime system used prior to Apollo 12 by unsuited crewmen employed the urine transfer system. This system consisted of a rubber cuff connected to a flexible collection bag. A new system, the urine receptacle assembly, was developed for Apollo and served as the prime system on Apollo 12 and all subsequent missions.
*Here's an online HTML version of the same report (with clearer text, photos, diagrams, tables):
SP-368 Biomedical Results of Apollo - NASA History Office
https://history.nasa.gov/SP-368/contents.htm

posted by cenoxo at 1:18 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


That reminds me of the zero gravity toilet instructions from the movie 2001 — that scene is hilarious.
posted by exogenous at 2:09 PM on January 10


From Cenoxo's link chapter 2: Microbiological Investigations:

> The body surface samples, the nasal samples, the throat mouth gargle, the urine, and the feces were maintained at 277°K (4°C) during transport to the laboratory.

I find it delightfully nerdy and so perfectly NASA to see the report describing specimen temperatures in Kelvin.
posted by lostburner at 10:53 AM on January 11


Another gem from the Apollo report: a photo of an adult diaper ("fecal containment system") for use when wearing space suits. Labeled ARMSTRONG.

https://history.nasa.gov/SP-368/s6ch2.htm
posted by lostburner at 11:08 AM on January 11


Among other things left behind by Apollo astronauts (to save weight and fuel on their return to Earth), There’s Poop on the Moon [Gizmodo, 1/12/2015]: 96 bags of poop, pee, and puke.
posted by cenoxo at 7:08 PM on January 12


« Older He never tells you the age of the hero   |   "It's a photon blast." Newer »


You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.