It would be most people’s worst nightmare. In the summer of 2021, as the UK was taking long-awaited, tentative steps out of COVID lockdown restrictions, a man in the southeastern town of Windsor was enjoying his garden when the unthinkable happened. Human waste from a passing plane was dumped, causing a veritable poonami that covered his “whole garden, and garden umbrellas, and him”, according to a BBC report at the time.
And it’s not the first time this has happened. The phenomenon of "blue ice" refers to frozen waste leaking from aircraft servicing points. Although the Civil Aviation Authority stresses that this is rare, particularly after the invention of modern vacuum toilets, it’s not unheard of for blocks of solid blue pee to fall from the sky (which confirms that this is yet another color of frozen water that you should not eat).
If you’ve never been unlucky enough to have experienced a fecal air assault, it’s likely you haven’t spent much time thinking about how airplane toilets work. After all, if you gotta go when you’re 11,000 meters (37,000 feet) in the air, you gotta go. But just how likely is it that your waste could be dropped on someone’s unsuspecting head far below?
Fear not, because TikTokker and airline pilot flywithgarrett has the answers you’re looking for.
As Garrett explains, all the human waste that builds up over the course of a flight should be channeled safely into sealed compartments at the rear of the plane, ready for removal once it’s back on the ground.
Many of the commenters were baffled at the idea of airplane poops parachuting to the ground – clearly, they’ve not met our unfortunate man from Windsor. But it’s obviously a question that has played on some people’s minds, with one TikTokker admitting: “I really thought it dumped out in the air”.
So, you can rest easy in the knowledge that, as long as everything works as it should, your high-altitude excretions should not be making a reappearance until the aircraft has landed (although, spare a thought for the poor ground crew).
And if you’ve ever wondered why toilet seats are shaped the way they are, we’ve got that covered for you too.