We have all been there. The urgent call of nature whilst flying a single-engine that is not ‘loo’ equipped. With the Summer season upon us, the need to drink up is a necessary one, but what goes in must come out and dealing with this situation can indeed be a challenge.

First, I must tell you the story of my first solo navigation. Indeed an exciting day and I couldn’t wait to get going. After a lot of careful planning, maps, notes and instructions I was ready to nail this thing called navigation. For some reason, dehydration is always a concern of mine, and considering I was going to need to be fully focused for 150NM I thought it a good idea to have a few glugs from my ever-present water bottle before starting up the engine.

The route started off really well, my wind and time calculations were correct, and I was sighting all my landmarks… Way to go! Shortly after my first turn, about 30 minutes into what was estimated to be about a 2h30 flight, I started to feel that lower abdominal pressure that no pilot likes to feel when busy with tasks which keep an aircraft flying straight and level. Could I manage another 2 hours like this? Definitely NOT. With no on-board ‘facilities’ the only way out of this situation was to find an airfield to land at and resolve the problem. Finding an airfield en-route is not too challenging, but landing at a strange field when you only have a few hours in your logbook can be a bit stressful!

Luckily for me, I found Middelburg airfield quite easily, and even though it had a gravel runway, it looked pretty decent. Of course, I was thinking of my poor instructor back at base, standing there impatiently pacing up and down with the timer, but there was no question – I HAD to land! The field was quiet, as to be expected, and I expedited the taxi to the nearest hangar (not having time to seek out the apron or clubhouse location). After a less than recommended fast shut-down, I flung the canopy open and made a dash for the back of the hangar. In the meantime, a local who happened to be at the field, came racing over in his bakkie, obviously thinking I was in distress. Well, I was in distress, but not my aircraft! Needless to say, a lot of embarrassment when the farmer marched around the corner and caught me in the act… Hopefully I never see him again!

So the point of all this is how to deal with these ‘uncomfortable situations’. I have known some pilots with huge capacity bladders, and those that have to following a regime of complete dehydration before a 0.5 hour flight.

Dehydration is not a good idea. While eliminating the ‘pressing’ problem, it can damage your kidneys if you are doing this regularly for your flights. The associated symptoms are also not conducive to flying, at all such as: dizziness, headaches, fatigue, dry eyes and confusion.

The more likely solution is to either carry your own on-board ‘measure’ such as a special bottle for the purpose, although lunch tins, Checkers packets and cooler boxes have also had their alternative purposes reported. For female pilots the options are definitely more challenging, and will probably leave you with your dignity in your shoes.

I prefer the ‘metered’ approach. Firstly, I recommend that you hydrate well the day before a long flight, so that already you are not taking off in a dehydrated state. What you drink is also very important, coffee, tea and Cola will leave you much more dehydrated than water. Fruit juice is not only full of sugar, but the fibre may also leave you running for the other ablution. The best in flight drink is water, sipped in small quantities throughout the flight. The mineral content of water will also impact how quickly it gets processed. The body requires salts and other minerals to absorb the water, and if you are drinking a bottle of ‘prepared’ water, watch out as it may be very low in minerals. Another good solution is Rehydrate or sports mineral tablets (like 32GI Hydrate tablets), which dissolve in water, taste good, but do not come loaded with sugar and artificial stuff.

Staying hydrated is important, but if all else fails, there is always someone’s lunch Tupperware. What is your nature’s call story? Post in the comments below, we all could do with a laugh or inventive solution 😉

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