When you are sitting on a plane and need the bathroom, you just get up and walk over to the nearest toilet. But do the pilots do that or do they have their own bathroom in the cockpit? Do even small aircraft have bathrooms? When you gotta go you gotta go, so how do pilots go?
Airline pilots will use the bathroom nearest the cockpit when there are two pilots. For single-pilot aircraft, they either have to land and use facilities or can use devices to collect urine like a catheter system or purposely designed bottle. For excrement, they have to land and use a proper toilet.
If you pay attention on your next long-haul flight you might notice the pilot coming out of the cockpit to use the bathroom, but for them to do so there are certain protocols that must be followed to ensure the safety of the aircraft. This sounds a bit overkill but you will see why if you keep reading!
How Do Airline Pilots Go To The Bathroom?
Airline pilots take it in turns to use the bathroom nearest the cockpit during a flight. There are no bathrooms installed in the cockpit. For airplanes with a single pilot, diapers, catheters, or collection devices are used if they are unable to land to use the airport bathroom.
For those pilots lucky enough to be flying an aircraft that has a bathroom and have another pilot sitting next to them it makes it an easy task of going to the bathroom. They just take it in turns.
However, since the 2015 aircraft accident of Germanwings flight 9525 where one of the pilots left the cockpit to go to the bathroom and the first officer decided to lock him out of the cockpit and intentionally crashed the airplane in a suicide, things changed. You can read more about that crash here on Wikipedia.
Now, when a pilot requires to go to the bathroom they must have a flight attendant be present in the cockpit during their absence to ensure the flying pilot does not repeat the events of 2015. At the very least, they would be able to open the cockpit door to allow the absent pilot to resume their position.
For airline pilots that don’t have the luxury of another pilot or an onboard bathroom there are several methods they use:
- Go to the bathroom before the flight and hold it if able
- Use an adult diaper
- Use a catheter-style system for very long flights
- Use a urine collection device
Going ‘#1’ is a lot easier, especially for the males on a flight, but if the pilot needs to go ‘#2’ the only real way is to land and use the bathroom at an airport facility.
Depending on how open the cockpit is to the rest of the passengers a pilot could easily use a device like to one shown above or use a ‘Gatorade’ bottle as it has a wide opening which makes inserting and collecting far easier than trying to aim into a Cola bottle while flying!
How Do Fighter Pilots Go To The Bathroom?
Fighter pilots can pee into a collection bag filled with beads or a pad that turns into a gel to prevent spillage. Some aircrews can be fitted with a collection device called the SKYDRATE which they wear that then pumps the urine into a collection bag allowing them to go to the bathroom hands-free.
Just like any pilot, the best solution is to go to the bathroom before the flight commences but for fighter pilots on long missions with multiple air-to-air refuelings the need to stay hydrated is a must, but this means at some point they will need to urinate.
There are several ways the armed forces go about this task:
Using collection bags, known as Piddle Packs. The pilot will wait until they have a few minutes of straight and level cruise flight at which point they can unzip their flight suit, place the collection bag in position and urinate. Just like a modern diaper, the beads or pad inside the bag absorb the urine and turn it into a gel to ensure there is no spillage once the pilot has sealed up the bag. As you can imagine, this is a lot easier for male pilots to accomplish!
Some aircraft are fitted with a collection system that involves the pilot using a collection device around their genitals which diverts the urine away from them to be stored in a collection container mounted in the aircraft. Known as a ‘Peetube’ this also requires the use of the pilots’ hands to operate.
Pilots can wear an adult diaper to collect urine during flight. This allows the pilot to urinate hands-free but then is in the discomfort of sitting in a gel-filled diaper for the remainder of the flight. This is also only good for one bathroom break and the risk of urinary infections increases.
A new device is called the SKYDRATE – This is similar to the collection method in #2, but this system is worn by the pilot and detects when the pilot is urinating. It uses a small pump to pump the urine away from the pilot and into a collection bag. This is a completely portable system and is worn by the pilot for the whole flight but the main benefit is it it is totally hands-free and far more hygenic.
You can find out more about the SKYDRATE system Here at the US-based manufacturers’ website
If a pilot has to go #2, then the only way is to land and use the facilities, just like any other pilot without a full onboard bathroom!
Do Small Airplanes Have Bathrooms or Toilets?
Small airplanes do not have the space for a bathroom but may have a passenger seat that converts into a portable toilet, but there is no privacy from the rest of the passengers. Smaller turbine-powered airplanes like the Pilatus PC-12 or King Air can be fitted with a small bathroom if requested.
The space and weight that a bathroom takes up require the airplane to be of considerable size. Personal airplanes like Cessna 172’s and Diamond DA-20 and 40 series do not even have the space for a portable toilet but as the airframe gets larger, the availability of a toilet or bathroom becomes possible.
Many smaller jets and turbo-prop airplanes can have a passenger toilet seat installed with minimum effort and in fact, most of the aircraft manufacturers offer this as an add-on. This type of toilet is fairly common and requires minimal weight and space to be installed.
Do Helicopters Have Bathrooms or Toilets?
The only civilian helicopters that have the size and power to contain a bathroom are the largest like the Sikorsky S61 & S92, Airbus 225, or Russian Helicopter Mi17 & Mi38. Bathrooms take up a lot of space and weight so a seat that lifts to reveal a portable toilet could be installed if requested.
A helicopter is generally used as a convenience vehicle for trips over short distances. The need for a bathroom to be installed generally is outweighed by the cost, size, and weight it will require. However, when money is no object and the owner must have every luxury available then a bathroom can be installed.
The only helicopter that I know of and have seen with a personal bathroom is a VIP Sikorsky S92 that is flown around London, UK. This helicopter offers 16 passenger seats and a personal toilet to ensure its riders are not caught short.
For this size helicopter, you will need to have deep pockets as its price tag of almost $30M makes it available only to the very wealthy.
If you found this article helpful here are a few more you might like to read:
- How Long to Refuel an Airplane? – 15 Most Common Planes
- Why Do Airplanes Need to Be Towed & Pushed?
- How Much Fuel Do Airplanes Carry? (With 15 Examples)
- The Biggest Helicopter in the World: The Mi-26T2
- Aircraft Cockpits: Why Are There So Many Buttons!!?