How Female Military Pilots Spell Relief

| Mon May 19, 2008 3:46 PM EDT

As an armchair historian, I'm always scouring for info on how chicks in the Old West etc. went to the bathroom and dealt with their periods in all that long sleeved, flowing train, Texas-heat get-up. As a sci-fi geek, I'm always frustrated not to know how the Star Trekkers went (will go?) potty in the 24th century and whether periods were ever conquered before the Cylons invaded Earth. Well, I still don't know the answer to these questions (though I can't wait for you commenters to tell me how stupid I am) but I know how US military pilots did until recently. (With great difficulty, especially chicks). CNN:

"Piddle packs"—heavy-duty bags containing absorbent sponges—have been blamed for at least two crashes over the years, and they're not always tidy.
...When nature's call becomes too pressing to ignore, a pilot has to fly and unbuckle the harness at the same time—while using both hands to maneuver around in a seat to which he or she is virtually molded.
The aerobatic maneuver is even harder for female pilots.

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On long or cold-weather flights, the amount of gear and clothing made the maneuver nearly impossible, and pilots would sometimes have no choice but to relieve themselves in their flight suits.

When I was working USAF intel back in the day and providing support for our fliers, the all-male pilots evaded our piss-questions but did hasten to tell us that the extremely unfortunate among them earned the not-at-all coveted "Strato-shitter" award. Now, finally, at least I know how military pilots will henceforth be hitting the head:

"...In the AMXD, a cup for a man and a pad for a woman is strategically placed before the pilot dons a flight suit."

"The AMXD worked as advertised. I believe it's a much better system and needs to be fielded ASAP," says an unidentified pilot in a testimonial on the instructional DVD....The system has already seen action in combat zones: Female helicopter pilots from the Netherlands used the system in Afghanistan. ...the reviews have been positive from pilots of both genders. "One woman had the device taken away after testing and was quite unhappy about having to return to the old method," he said.

While the question of #2 remains unanswered (I'm guessing: Pepto or Imodium.) I think this one might have civilian applications, at least for us women "of a certain age" who find ourselves needing to 'go' more and more frequently. More to the point, it's good to know that someone's thinking of the troops in human terms and not just as human pawns in a strategic chess game, whose pride and comfort are afterthoughts at best. Call me crude, but this Memorial Day, I'll raise a glass knowing that fliers can, too, without worrying about having to soil both their dignity and their flight suits an hour later as they risk their lives for...let's go with freedom. To them, I know it's about duty, honor and country. Now it can also be about peeing with pride.

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