Monday, September 03, 2018

Have Indian airlines been dropping poop mid-air?

If shit happens, you pay the price. That’s exactly what Directorate General of Civil Aviation’s (DGCA) directive to airlines sounds like. DGCA, in this case, is complying with an order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that wanted airlines to pay a penalty of Rs50,000 if they empty their poo tank mid-air.

In October 2016, a resident of Vasant Kunj, a neighbourhood in the vicinity of the Delhi airport, had filed a petition in the NGT alleging that aircrafts coming in to land dumped waste, which landed on his terrace. An official from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) inspected the site and concluded that the waste was indeed excreta, but its source was unknown. Meanwhile, in January this year, residents of Gurgaon’s Fazilpur Badli village found a large, icy rock in a field. Some mistook it for a meteor and even stored pieces of it in their fridge. It was later confirmed to be faeces.

There’s no way a pilot can press a button and splatter gallons of poop from the sky. Simply put, when shit happens, it happens unintentionally. Waste from the lavatories is stored in a tank, and its valve—located on the outside of the plane—can only be opened by the crew on the ground. However, if the sewage tank develops a leak, waste can trickle out, freeze at high altitudes (called blue ice) and gather on the outside of the aircraft. While landing, it may break apart and land on the ground.
03/09/18 Condé Nast Traveller