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Air New Zealand’s ‘Pee Lab’ video lifts the lid on plane toilets

The first time you flushed a toilet on a plane, you probably thought the entire aircraft – you included – was going to get sucked down the pipes, such is the incredible power of its noisy pneumatic vacuum.

Keen to lift the lid on one of the wonders of modern air travel, a trio of engineers from Air New Zealand’s “Pee Lab” (looking at the paper sign, we have a feeling it’s not official) recently knocked together a short video (below) featuring the humble plane toilet.

After kicking off the piece by underlining the importance of an aircraft toilet – “If this doesn’t go, no one can go, and the plane doesn’t go” – engineers Peter, Jack, and Duan offer a few tidbits about the all-important flying john. Did you know, for example, that the contraption comprises around 300 parts, and, once taken apart for repairs, needs a whole day to reassemble? It even contains a small computer to control the system and flag up any issues that arise.

And at an astonishing $17,000 apiece, aircraft toilets must surely be among the most expensive in the world.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Pee Lab team confirms once and for all that the stuff you flush at 36,000 feet is at no point released onto an unsuspecting public going about their day back on terra firma.

Apparently, the toilets incorporate a “two-valve system” that ensures “it won’t happen, ever.” Instead, the computerized evacuation system sends everything to an on-board tank that isn’t emptied till the plane is well and truly on the ground. Which is good to know.

Related: Amazing new autopilot system can safely land a plane if the pilot is incapacitated

The current toilet system for aircraft has been in place since the 1980s, but before then there were reported instances where pipe leakages occasionally caused the system’s blue deodorizing liquid to freeze and fall from a plane.

The Flight Standards District Office, which still receives reports from people claiming to have been hit by poop from a plane, cites Canada geese flocking together and preparing for migration as “one possible explanation.”