Frankfurt, Germany- On June 11th, 2018, at about 8am an empty Airbus SE A340-300 long-haul aircraft owned by Deutsche Lufthansa AG was being repositioned to operate as Flight LH426 to Philadelphia. During the tow, the tug caught fire. No passengers or crew were on board however ten people were taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation.
Do you ever wonder where your poop goes when you go on an airplane? In the good old days it went “out”. Dumped in mid air. After more than a few people being bombed by frozen poop, the airlines decided to keep it. So the next time you’re boarding, please note that someone is under the aircraft emptying the shitter.
A few years back, this was my job. While working at Macarren airport, Las Vegas I was a baggage handler/ramp agent. “Lavatory Servicing” was just one of many services we provided.It consisted of towing the Lav Cart from airplane to airplane, draining the poop and reservicing that “Blue Water” you see when you flush. The blue part is disinfectant. This will become an important bit of trivia later in this story.
Most folks didn’t like being assigned to the Poop Patrol but I took it in stride. Sometimes I put blue Kool-Aid in a clear Gatorade bottle and drink it as I towed the cart around. When asked what I was drinking I’d say it was disinfectant. “Hey, it’s cheaper than drinking. Want some?” At Christmas time I’d wear a Santa hat. That got some looks from boarded passengers.
Sometimes, lav servicing got interesting. I was dumping the lavs of a Lufthansa 757. The Germans do not use the blue juice because they like their poop chemically free. Did I mention that this draining can be “messy”? While I was dumping, the co-pilot was doing his walk around inspection. He eyed a suspicious trail of liquid on the belly of the aircraft. He wiped it with his finger and did a taste test. He then asked me, “Is this hydraulic fluid?” With the best straight face I have EVER mustered up I said “No”.
Sometimes Lav servicing can be tricky. I was dumping an Air Canada 767 one night. On the 767, the lav has a Donut style dump system. Rather than a valve you just open, it has a plug called a donut you have to remove. You can’t see the donut so you have to be careful to make sure it’s removed and reinstalled.
The lav dump is back on the bottom of the tail so I was standing on the cart to reach it. I’m not the tallest person in the class so to attach the hose [refer to picture of cart, note hose] I have to stretch up and attach it over my head. Awkward at best.
On this particular night there was some icing. Frozen “leakage” was making it hard to hook up the hose. I started to fiddle with the donut but before I got it out I noticed that the hose wasn’t locked in. It was loose and if I dumped, the hose could fly off and shit would hit everything.
I decided to reattach the hose.
To my horror, just as I twisted the collar to lock the hose, poop came rumbling through . I immediately tried to lock the hose. It didn’t. Because of the bend in the dump hose I’ve got about 60 pounds of poop in the hose that I’m holding up with my arms above my head. Also, because of the bend, there’s still more in the lav tank waiting to come out.
I’m trapped. The radio mic on my shoulder is my salvation. While holding the hose with one hand, I quickly key the mic and call my supervisor.
“Pete from Walt”
My hand flashes back to the hose.
“Go ahead for Pete”
“Where are you?” [Show my hand flashing back to hose.]
“On Air Canada”
“Come to the back please. [Hand flashes again, hose getting heavier].
So Pete comes to the back of the aircraft and sees my predicament. I’m hoping he’s going to jump up and help me. He says, “Let it go and jump back”. “WHAT????”, I scream. He patiently repeats himself. I let go the hose but don’t jump back. I don’t want to fall off the cart.
WHOOSH! I get a shit shower. EWWW [EWW is not spelled with one W, that’s Entertainment Weekly].
Thank God for the disinfectant! I get the shit rinsed off in our safety shower but am left with tiny bits of toilet paper sticking to me all over my uniform.
I go back and start cleaning up the mess. By the time I get back, Pete has a crew with squeegees helping. They’re bitching until I walk up. Now they’re laughing their ass off.
Pete explains that the folks in Montreal didn’t get the donut all the back in when they serviced the lav. That left a tiny air gap which froze the water. During flight the ice pushed the donut all the way out and only a plug of ice was holding the poop back. Me banging the hose collar in a unsuccessful attempt to lock it in place dislodged the ice resulting in the WHOOSH.