"To Pee Or Not To Pee - No Question About It"

"To Pee Or Not To Pee - No Question About It"

from rec.aviation.soaring - January 1996


additional material

"Relief Bags"

from rec.aviation.soaring - May 1998

From Iris M/Karl H Striedieck: ixm106@psu.edu

It's the finish of day 7 at the 1977 15 meter nationals at Hobbs as Billy Hill pulls his Zuni into a victory pullup after 5 1/2 hours on course. More finishers straggle in and eventually a radio call from 7N announces he will land about one mile short. Perhaps it was fatigue, or maybe dehydration was the cause, but the PIK cartwheels and the pilot is injured. When doctors begin treatment of what should have been a relatively straightforward case they discover a ruptured bladder which turns a routine situation into something with more grave consequences.

Most of us can relate stories of flights whose most memorable aspects had something to do with either not drinking enough water or not being able to get rid of the contents of a bladder that seemed ready to explode. Add to those the tales of spewing baggies, cockpit floods and bags wrapped around leading edges and it is clear that more information is needed by glider pilots in dealing with what can be anything but a laughing matter. This article presents two systems by which men and women can take care of nature's call and thereby lessen the chances of dehydration, discomfort and the danger of a ruptured bladder in an otherwise `routine' crash.

Perhaps it is advancing age, maybe just the quest for more efficiency, but with time men's relief systems seem to evolve from just `holding it', to bag jettison systems, to various plumbing schemes that empty overboard. Given the ease of use, low incidence of leaks and spills, lower distraction factor inflight, and absence of corrosive damage to landing gear and rudder parts, the male external catheter (mec) plumbed to a landing gear door seems to be the best system for the boys.

The tubing recommended is 1/4" id polyethylene. This is a hard- walled, rather rigid tubing that can nevertheless be routed from the cockpit, under the seat pan through bulkheads and mounted on the lower rear corner of a gear door. It will take the twisting required to extend the landing gear but won't collapse if it is squeezed under the seat pan. It is available at hardware stores.

It is a little simpler to vent the system out the belly under the seat pan but the result is a lower fuselage washed in corrosive urine that gets on the metal parts of landing gears and rudder hinges. Take the time to route the tubing to the gear door so that with the gear extended during use the entire spray is directed away from the ship. Tests with dyed water show this to be the case.

Another important hydrological feature is the incorporation of a T fitting between the mec and rigid tubing. A piece of surgical tubing (normally clamped off) allows the pilot to blow the plumbing dry following use and thereby avoid freezing and trailer stains. Catheters are available at medical supply outlets or any pharmacy by special order. The Mentor Freedom Cath sells for about $1.40 each and is available in three sizes. These devices are much like a condom with a flexible tube that connects to your ship's plumbing. The adhesive used prevents leaks even under the pressure of purging blow outs, however it is recommended that a small towel be used when disconnecting to catch any stray fluid.

Women are confronted with a different set of challenges of course, but experience with use of feminine bladder control guards shows these to be quite satisfactory, and definitely superior to the alternatives of deliberate pre-flight dehydration, curtailed flights, or the hazards and discomfort that come to pilots flying with bulging bladders. The good news is that no modifications are necessary to the glider.

One of the manufacturers of the magic devices that solve the problem is Johnson and Johnson who offer their Serenity feminine bladder control pads (Super absorbency). The secret of these things is a chemical gelling system contained within the fluted cotton liner that can absorb and retain liquid as fast as it can be poured on. Even when held near vertical so that runoff would logically result, none occurs. The surface away from the user is water proof so handling is manageable.

In practice, at least for new users, there is some distraction from the demands of flying the ship so a crowded thermal is not a good place to try this. It is necessary to loosen the restraint system and clothes should be of a sort that will allow access. Consider a trial run on the ground and make provisions for a container to hold the used pads. It is most important that the pads not be squashed by weight or clothing while being used as this will prevent rapid absorption.

Although these pads will hold a full bladders worth, it is prudent to use them more often with less volume until experience shows the best logistics.

If you've been frustrated or lazy in dealing with the call of nature while soaring, good solutions are available. Don't tolerate the inconvenience any longer. It could be a lot worse than inconvenient.

From David H Noyes: dnoyes@magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu

In article <4dgj17$ahh@moorgate.algor.co.uk>,
Rick Filipkiewicz  wrote:
>Since in-flight peeing is so necessary why don't the benighted
>manufacturers fit a pee tube going out of the gear doors as standard?

Schempp-Hirth will install a relief tube for extra DM's.

>I've got one on my K6-E that comes out just in front of the wheel and
>it works fine; the Venturi suction is amazing.

The S-H tube exits just in front of the wheel on the Ventus and urine does not enter the wheel well. Perhaps because the well is sealed, there is no through flow of air.

The urine does, however, flow along the underside of the fuselage (leaving a gummy residue which the crew is reluctant to clean off!) and some of it enters the rudder gap causing rusting of the lower rudder hinge bolt.

I now use an on-board fiber glass container between the floor and my calf. It holds 2 liters and vents through the manufacturer's relief tube providing suction and a path for overflow in the unlikley event of my output exceeding 2 liters per flight.

Regards, Dave NL (No Lift, NNeeds iron thermaLL)

From Al Holst: cd400@FreeNet.Carleton.CA

Readers of Sailplane & Gliding will be familiar with the following bit of intelligence .. see S & G June/July 1994 .. p.146

Yes, ladies, it's what you've been hoping for... a high-technology waste disposal system .. The innovative part is a 12v electric vacuum pump driven by the glider batteries which sucks out the urine into a plastic container. The working end has an appropriately shaped receiver which has proved to be leak-free in the year the propotype has been tested.

Roland Schmitt from Cologne produced it for his wife, but it has been such a success that production has started. You can order one from Roland Schmitt, Diepeschrather Str 6a, D-561069 Kolm, tel 01049 221 686782

Happy landings!!!

From Deb Glatiotis: deb@geo.ucalgary.ca

Just can't avoid this string.....

I've been using pee baggies within which I've placed some newly developed superabsorbant fibres (not commercially available yet) sewn into a J cloth bag. The fibres absorb about 200x their volume in fluid, and up to the 100x level, retain a firm jello-like spill proof mass. Prototypes were tested to destruction by one of the slackest bladders in Western Canada, and the ensuing Mark IV design is bombproof for mortals. High volume (~1 litre) can be accomodated without being messy. Other bonuses include not having to drop your garbage out over the ground, and you also get a nice warm armrest for about ten or fifteen minutes! Any questions about this fibre, just Email. The technical development of these fibres is continuing ( and no-one's pecker has fallen off due to contact. Yet)

Development for women's use could occur, if only we had some women who flew!

Mike Glatiotis

From Moshe Braner: braner@emba-news.uvm.edu

A combination I've found good (for men) is a 1-quart ziploc bag filled with a "walker" size diaper (for 25-30 pound babies). Trim the plastic edges off the diaper and fold it inside out before inserting into the bag. When used, the diaper will absorb all the liquid within a minute or so, so leakage afterwards is not a risk. Please don't throw it out the window! Sure makes longer flights feasible and enjoyable. And does not require modifying the glider.

From Bruce Hoult: Bruce@hoult.actrix.gen.nz

brumstik@interaccess.com (broomstick) writes:
> I have seen advertised, and pictures of, a device known as a "feminine urinary 
> flow director".  This is a hand-held molded plastic uh... plastic thing that 
> has a wide scoop shape on one end and a spount on the other.  Supposedly a 
> women is not even required to drop her drawers to use it.  Just unzip the fly, 
> insert scoop end, aim spout....

There are oval-shaped funnel sort of things used by female triathletes so they don't have to get off their bikes to pee. I've seen the one my brother's wife uses, though I have no idea where you get them. It wouldn't hurt to try a bicycle store, though.

Come to think of it: I bought my Camelbak at a bicycle store, so I guess sailplane pilots have quite a bit in common with long distance cycists.

From Sylvain Louboutin: sloubtin@news.cs.tcd.ie

another potential source; sport shops dealing with mountaineering; an ex-girfriend used to climb up cliffs and such which sometimes involves spending a couple of days/nights strapped in some harnesses on the side of a vertical wall... these gadgets (i.e., I know some use shoehorns, but there are better stuff) might not necessarily be usable though; i.e., although there is a common problem between both sports (amount of clothing and a harness) it has to deal with different problems; i.e., less turbulence, but very windy conditions...

by the way; in UK a significant portion of the theory exam for PPL is dedicated to `human performance and limitation'; from what I recall they insist on not getting dehydrated in flight, but suggest nothing about how to deal with it; nor do they give much info about how the urinary system actually works (a good understanding of what to expect, and helps planning); i.e., it is quite silly to make a tabou of something actually so important...

From Beverley and Noel Matthews: matthews@internode.com.au

I bought mine from a medical supply company, works well, BUT requires practice to MENTALLY adjust to it's use, like anything which involves the 'not talked about' areas in human activities.


Additional material - May 1998 - "Subject: Relief Bags"

From Ross

Please excuse the less than stimulating subject, but .....

Does anyone know what the "secret" ingredient-substance is (that absorbs and gels urine) used in commercial pee bags and where it can be purchased? I've been using "Rest Stop" bags for several years now, and although they work just fine, I'd like to make my own using baggies and reduce the cost. Any alternatives?

From Martin Hellman

I've followed this with topic over the years. The longest thread was something like "To pee or not to pee, that is the question." Up til recently, I've just counted on bladder endurance and water management, but have worried that might lead to dehydration (esp in the desert environment I fly in a lot) which can literally be fatal. When I started soaring again four years ago, in an effort to be safer, I asked several people about any fatalities they knew of and what had caused them. The one that came up was a woman who passed out from dehydration. So... I have recently reinvestigated the issue and tried a few things.

Peeing in a bag with a cut up diaper or sanitary napkin to absorb the urine didn't seem to work well. At first I thought this might be because it was the first time I was trying it, but later talked with a friend who told me of a well known glider pilot who used that method in my friend's ship. My friend said, "Maybe I should regard it as an honor to have X's pee on my ship, but I'm not so sure." So that leads me to believe that even experienced baggie pee-ers have their problems. (Correct me if I'm wrong.)

An article from Consumer Aviation that another friend sent me several years ago experimented with several options (male and female, tho he did say he had trouble getting female volunteers) and decided that adult diapers were the surest method. OK, I don't like that idea, but who's to argue with scientific experimentation, so I bought some and tried wearing one around the house to see how it would feel. It was uncomfortable, even without having been used, so I shelved that one at least for the time being.

Recently I too (as one of the other respondents) bought the external catheter advertised in Soaring's classifieds, and it seemed to work, but it had its problems too. Hooking it up only when needed and then disconnecting it was tricky and potentially vulnerable to spills. And hooking it up just before flight meant a long period of possible irritation of sensitive tissue -- plus possible irritation from any urine left in the tube. After all, the external catheter is gravity fed and the upper part of my leg is horizontal when flying. (Again, correct me if I'm wrong. I haven't experimented exhaustively.)

The technique that seemed to work best (but used only once so far) is to pee into a diaper held by hand and then put it in a baggie for later disposal. No uncomfortable thing to wear (either diaper or catheter), no chance for spillage (at least so far as I could see), and no chance for irritation.

I've never heard of anyone else using this method, but doubt that I'm the first. Any input would be welcome.

From Marc Silverman

Agrosoke root watering crystals available at gardening centers are what you want. There are probably other brand names. It works well Marc Silverman

From John Cochrane

I found bags hard to manage -- they get folded up and it's hard to make sure everything is going where it should with one hand, while flying, looking out and so forth.

Also, I don't like the idea of littering the countryside with plastic bags full of pee and diapers.

A solution that works well for me (in gliders with no releief tube) is a short bicycle type water bottle. The fact that it's hard makes the plumbing issues easy to handle with one hand.

John Cochrane

From Gary O'Neill

A fellow pilot had an experience which i will relate to you The aircraft he was flying was an ASW17 and he had to pee so out came the trusty bag , after finishing he thought he might need it again so empty out the window was the solution. The ASW17 cockpit air comes from a nasa vent on the fuselage side under the wing so you can guess what happened. The contents went out the window got sucked into the vent then sprayed back over the cockpit interior and pilot. The pilot is dead now but had a good sense of humor so I think he would still have a chuckle about it.

From Donald Ingraham

I did the same on my Jantar (gear door set-up, which was originally Karl's idea, I believe). It worked well and kept it off the fuselage. The Discus, however, has a factory P-tube that protrudes about an inch out the bottom and in front(!) of the gear doors. I ground the vinyl tubing flush with the fuselage and taped a mylar flap over it (yes, pointed on front :-) then inserted a slightly smaller diameter vinyl tube into the existing one. When I have to use it, I push about 6" of the tubing out the bottom and when I'm done pull it back in. I also put a T-fitting next to the condom-cath connection so I can blow a mouth full of drinking water through to keep the tube clean.
Another idea to consider in the quest for perfect relief! :-)

From Chip Bearden

There should be no problem so long as you put the exit end of the tubing on the lower aft corner of a gear door. This is the technique Karl Striedieck wrote about in his excellent article, entitled "To Pee or Not To Pee" in Soaring magazine.

The idea of getting the dump tube away from the fuselage actually goes back at least 15 years (probably much more than that). The first time I saw it was (as I recall) on Kai Gertsen's 301 Libelle in the early 80s at Elmira. I radioed to tell him his wheel was down while on course at the Nationals and wondered why he ignored me! Kai attached the tubing directly to the landing gear which, on the Libelle, got the exit port well below the fuselage.

Six years ago, after I heard all the horror stories about urine accumulating in the bilges, etc., and while contemplating the difficulty of getting a tube installed in the fuselage skin aft of the wheel well in the diminutive fuselage of my new ASW-24, I installed the same thing as Kai, but put the dump tube on the gear door, thinking I wouldn't have to extend the gear all the way. In fact, I found that in the '24, I only had to lower the gear slightly to flip the doors open 90 degrees, so the corner of the door is perpendicular to and farthest away from the fuselage. Karl--who with a few other ridge pilots had made the external catheter socially acceptable in today's cockpits--then took things a step further and performed some experiments with colored water on his ASW-20--the '20s having been notorious for sucking urine into the low pressure area at the base of the vertical fin and corroding the lower rudder bearing--and demonstrated conclusively that this method avoided the problems of the typical exit on the bottom of the fuselage. The rest is history.

Another method I've heard of (on a '20) is an extendable tube which the pilot pushes out into the airstream perpendicular to the fuselage through a small hole drilled in the belly near the seat back rest. This gets the exit even farther away from the fuselage and might be the best method of all.

I much prefer the external catheter/dump tube method because it's easier than using bags (no hands required for peeing), especially for ridge and gaggle flying (from experience, though, pilots below you don't always react well to seeing your wheel come down in a gaggle).

Plus I hate the idea of littering the countryside with non-biodegradable plastic bags. To say that a few more bags won't make much difference in the general clutter seems like saying that it's OK to steal a little money from a fairly well to do pilot because he won't be able to tell the difference. When a method works better AND avoids the litter problem, I can't see why anyone wouldn't go to the little bit of trouble to install the system on his own sailplane.

No problems with skin irritation so far as I know. The slight bit of negative pressure at the exit port seems to collapse the catheter and empty it pretty well.

Known problems: If it's below freezing, use a "T" and another length of tubing to blow out the dump line (don't confuse it with your water bottle tube!). You haven't experienced everything flying has to offer until you've looked down to see a rapidly expanding catheter "water balloon" about to blow off your male appendage at 15,000 feet in the wave. Fortunately in my case the blockage melted quickly, releasing the "tension", as I was fast running out of ideas (and bladder control) on how to defuse the situation. The other problem also relates to urine which remains in the low point of the tubing under the seat, which can back flow either when the nose goes down on final approach (from experience, bad if you've already unhooked) or in the trailer after the flight. Solutions include not unhooking until after you've landed (from experience, don't roll to a stop right next to the spectators), installing a small valve in the line close to the catheter fitting, removing the catheter but leaving it attached to the tube and tying a knot in it (from experience, this can be fun on fast final glides!), and using air or water to blow/flush out the tube after landing (from experience, make sure your crew is not washing the dirt off the belly as you do this!)

Other issues for the senstive male: Can't recall whether Karl's article mentioned it or not but sorry, guys, size DOES matter. Unlike condoms, external catheters come in different sizes. If you were too embarrassed to buy condoms when you were younger, this won't be any easier. Not to worry, the literature for the product says that if it's too big (the catheter, that is), just squeeze the excess together so the adhesive sticks to itself and forms a fold. Still, too big is too big; buy a few and find out what size you need. Surgical supply houses sell them, sometimes at wildly different prices though even then the cost is minimal ($1.25 to $2.50 each). Sometimes you can get a quantity discount so maybe several pilots can pool their purchases (and the bravest one can go buy them). Don't know for sure what the shelf life is but I've used some which were several years old without problems (it's not like you carry one around in your wallet in case you get lucky with a friend's ASW-27). Also, I find it easier to put the thing on before launch. From experience, just make sure no spectators or crew persons of the opposite sex wander up to your cockpit as you're finishing up the "assembly" process or you're likely to get some strange looks.

From Ken Kochanski "Kilo Kilo"

My first system on my 20 simply 'flushed' through a hole in the belly .... but the streaming flow remained atached to the bottom of the fuse and entered the gear doors ... which required a cleanup and painting of gear components.

The next system used a tube attached to one of the gear doors ... and this worked great ... until a fatigue crack developed in the nylon tube right where it bent over the gear well opening. So, carefully check or replace this tube each season.

My last system uses a permenant 3/8" nylon tube extending 1/2" outside the hull behind the rigt gear door. I'll live with the minor drag penalty ... I just have to hit right ruddrer to slip a little when thermaling ... and the nasty stuff just heads for the wild blue. Don't have to lower the gear ... or forget to raise the gear ... or listen to radio calls telling me my gear is down.

As Chip points out, one of the guys in our club epoxied a small length of pvc tube to the inside of the fuse right behind the stick. The inside diameter of the tube accomodates a piece of nylon tubing with a 3/8 id. He simply pushes the nylon tube out through the belly about 3" .... if he forgets to retract .. the drag penalty is also fairly small. We have theorized about the potential damage that could be effected if he does a gear up landing with the tube extended ... ;-)

From Bob Whelan

If your ship pemits hands-off flying while urinating (mine does; apparently LS-1s do not), you can come to grips with littering (I seek to compensate by picking up much more trash than my gliding deposits), and you got water bombs out of your system during your school days (), an option not yet mentioned is using the 'flimsy' quart-sized freezer bags instead of the stiffer (in the U.S., anyway) zip-lock style.

The mechanics I use are: a) fold the bags in half along their long axis, b) layer the folded bags, c) fold the layered bags in half along their short axis; d) store double-folded stack beneath thigh, e) extract 2 when needed; f) place one bag inside the other, g) use inner bag (outer bag being for insurance purposes only); h) verify inner bag isn't a leaker by lifting sufficiently, i) twirl sufficiently to make 'temporary water bomb', j) toss down through side window. If inner bag leaks (rare in my experience), simply twirl both together and toss.

I used to use Andreas Maurer's 'pressure test' but found it superfluous with the double bag 'just in case' method.

It works a lot easier than it reads.

I once had a glider eywitness to a dumped bag; he reported he wasn't sure what he'd seen beyond he could tell I'd thrown something oveboard that 'seemed to explode.' I've never see evidence of premature 'explosion' on the ship afterwards. In the mid-eighties I did install/abandon a relief tube for demonstrated corrosion reasons, though had I followed the recommendations of Karl/Iris Striedieck in a "Soaring" article a few years ago, I believe my problems would not have occurred.

From Shaber CJ

Why even use a "Relief Bag"?#@! Forgive me, but in the 90's using a relief bag is like using a computer made of wood. Install a relief system in your glider. In some gliders a system that works well is a tube attached to the aft lower corner of a gear door running up to the cockpit with a quick release fitting (Wings and Wheels) and a external male cathether ( looks somewhat like a condomcathether). Lower the gear part way and pee.

In my Nimbus the relief tube is vented through a hole drilled in the low pressure neck down behind the cockpit. I never spray any part of the glider and I can stay tuned to the tack of flying not peeing.

From Peter

I've reached the point where I have to do something to work out a clean, repeatable process. I've tried the "condom/cathether/bag" system, but the sitting position in my LS-1 (not to mention the "at lest one hand on the stick" requirement) is not conducive to peeing, as I would have to do a shallow dive to get the contents to travel to the lower bag strapped to my ankle. Talk about adding to the anxiety. Besides, even when I did, there's not enough capacity for a 5+ hour flight.

While down at Keystone flying around the Ridge, I recently was able to pee into a ziplock bag (actually, two..one inside the other) with a heavy duty incontinence pad inside. When I was finally able to relax enough to start things happening, about half of it either missed the bag or slopped over. Then the bags started leaking...(I hadn't used them in a while, and kept them in the cockpit...where they obviously got torn up a bit). I couldn't really fit the whole mess out of the clear vision window, so after an hour of the after effects of joining the Allan Shepard club, I landed.

The day after this, I did my longest flight to date, (well, long for me) 320km. After about 2.5 hours when we were down to the Cumberland Gap, I wanted to pee. But after the mess I did the day before, and incredibly rough thermals, I gave up. I had to use 2 hands on the stick a lot while ridge running...and if you know the LS-1's handling, you'll understand. While I managed to get back to the gliderport, it was not a memorable experience with a distended bladder. I abandoned an offer to go north for another 200km to add to the trip, and elected to land. 5 hours. A fellow member flying our club's DG-300 was doing 7 hour trips... And here I was wondering why I always seemed to select 3 to 4 hour cross country flights...

So now I'm facing the obvious hurdle...peeing regularly and safely. I think I'll try the water bottle trick next, until I figure out a relief tube through the wheel well.

From Julian Fuchs

Freezer bags are often used, but I am concerned what will happen to the 500g bomb that you are dropping. Has anyone done a test to see how much damage it will do when dropped from say 5000ft? Perhaps, fly over a football stadium and see if any strange deaths are reported in the paper the next day. Better - and safer - if possible would be to fit your bomb with a fuse to detonate at about 20ft above the ground.

From Eric June

I've heard that half of a disposable diaper or a feminine napkin can be used inside the bag to reduce the possibility of spillage. When flying club ships, I currently use the external catheter/collection bag system advertised in the Soaring magazine classifieds. I'm having my own plane configured to have the relief tube exit through the gear door.

Return to the SSA Home Page?

Hosted by Dr. Günther Eichhorn