A pilot struggles with bladder control

It was another typical, beautiful, sunny summer day on the New Jersey shore, a Saturday. That meant that Cecil and his wife, Marge, were down from their home in Brooklyn and all of the airplanes would be flying banners for the weekend. Our pilots, except for me, were a little older and had all worked for Cecil for many years. It was always good to see everyone because during the week I flew the one banner by myself.

All of the airplanes were out. Cecil was checking with the pilots to see if they needed anything. Although he was born in 1900, he reminded me of Jimmy Cagney, with a great Irish face that a bit of a smile always played across.

As he did several times a summer, he stuck his head in my Cub and asked, “Do you have a bottle to pee in?”

Everyone but me carried a bottle. I guess it was a young guy thing. He liked to kid me about it.

“Nah, I can hold it.”

Cec shook his head. “What happens if the day comes you just can’t?”

“Hell, I’ll just pee in my thermos.”

He made a laughing face of disgust.

Thermos
A multi-function tool for a pilot.

“Ewwgh, hope you throw the thermos away.”

“Nah, just rinse it out a little.”

We laughed through the same conversation every few weeks during the summer. I never peed in my thermos and never carried a bottle.

On the weekend I towed from Long Branch, New Jersey, down to Ocean City, Maryland, dropped the banner in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, kicked out a left-handed banner (which was actually standard) which had been rigged with poles taped to the tow-rope, snagged it and flew it northbound from Cape May to Long Branch. It was a lot of flying. I was always the first banner out and the last airplane home.

Sunday, all of the airplanes were out of the hangar and gassed. I was talking to Jack, getting ready to go, and mentioned the liner in my thermos had broken.

“Hell, I’ve got two. Take one.”

“Oh, I’ll be all right. I fly without a thermos half the time.”

“No, just take one. I’ve got water or Kool-aid: your choice.”

I took the water and off I went.

A good six hours later, I taxied up behind the hangar and while I was idling the engine down, Jack was standing at my wingtip, arms akimbo with the Cheshire cat grin.

I shut down, jumped out, and handed the man his thermos, “What’s up, Jack?”

He tried to be stern but could barely contain a laugh, “Did you piss in my thermos?”

We both busted up.

“No. Why?”

“I went up on the banner hill before I left and mentioned to Cecil that you’d broken your thermos and I gave you one of mine. He and Marge damn near lost it. I couldn’t figure it out and they couldn’t tell me for five minutes. They just couldn’t stop laughing.”

We could hardly stop laughing. About that time Cecil came over.

“Hey Jack, is that your relief thermos?”

A year later Jack told me that almost every weekend Cecil asks which one of his thermoses is his relief thermos. Good laughs die hard.

Part 2

Island Beach State Park
Not the ideal place for a bathroom break…

Of course, a couple of weeks after that, I was two-and-a-half hours into my four-and-a-half hour flight and I had to go. No ifs, ands or buts, this was eye-tearing, stomach-aching, bounce up-and-down, throat-gurgling pressure on my bladder. And, I didn’t have my thermos at all. If I went back to Colts Neck and dropped the sign, my day was over. There was no way I could get back in the air and finish before dark. I could not tell Cecil why I cut the banner run short, and I wouldn’t lie. In another 15 minutes I knew I wasn’t even going to make it back to Colts Neck. The time to urinate had arrived.

Just south of Seaside, along what is now Island Beach State Park, I pulled the power back on the Cub so I slowed from my normal 55-57 mph to just under 50, trimmed the Cub up, unhooked my seatbelt, undid my pants and proceeded to carry out my brilliant plan. We only had the front seat and no stick in the back, so I hooked my left foot under the front of the seat, braced myself with my right foot behind the seat, all the while keeping myself from falling out by jamming my forehead against the wing root. I knelt on the doorframe with the clamshell doors open. Once I stabilized, I proceeded to pee out of the door into the slipstream.

At least that was the plan. The result was considerably different. Considering there was no stopping once the relief started, I was just along for the ride at that point. It was a long and strong stream that turned back into the cabin immediately and swirled around in a maelstrom of piss. The Cub didn’t have much interior, but, what it had was covered. The storm swirled onto me as well. My hair, my back, my right side and entire right leg were pretty well drenched.

The rest of the flight was miserable and when I finally got back to Colts Neck I had to hose down the inside of the airplane. After that, I always had my thermos and, for the record, I never used it for anything but drinking.

31 Comments

    • If you can’t laugh at yourself….. Thanks for the comment. As much as I love flying I don’t take myself too seriously.

    • Ain’t that the truth. This happened in the early 70’s. Since ’78, I was lucky enough to work in airplanes that had something other than a bottle as a bathroom.

  • Now THAT is some fuuunnnyyyy stuff! Reminds me of a story where a widow wanted her husbands ashes spread from an airplane over a seaside park. Trying to dump the ashes through the left side window only produced a cloud inside the aircraft. The widow along with the pilot was covered in ashes. Her comment was “well he liked airplanes, too!” I wonder what this story should be remembered as, “how do you spell relief? PISS!” Haha!

    • The title feels a bit clinical. Reminds me of a Depends commercial. No matter what age though, when ya gotta go, ya gotta go. Funny ashes story. There must be thousands of them. I knew an instructor who tried something similar with the same results.

  • Thank goodness I’m not the only one who has a bladder story on here. I was beginning to think I had an issue! Well according to my wife I do have issues but what does she know? Really enjoyed your story. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • A friend of mine dumped some ashes out the pilot side window and did a fair job of sand blast damage to the paint on his elevator.

    • There was an undertaker when I was young who flew a Tri-Pacer. He attached a bracket to his lift strut out by the tiedown ring and could hook an urn to it and advertised scattering of ashes. I guess he did a few, but made for a nice write-off.

  • The hubris of youth! Brilliant! Up until the time I had my prostate fixed, I always carried a wide mouth Costco Fish Oil bottle in my flight bag, juuuust in case.

    Cheers, Drew Kemp

    • Smart man. Nothing worse than being all filled up with nowhere to go. It’s made for some interesting de-planings.

  • Dan,
    I learned to fly at Colts Neck and remember Cecil well. I was fortunate enough to get a ride with him one day in his BT-13. I also worked there fueling, cleaning windshields and manning the phones when all the instructors were out flying. There aren’t many fields like that left anymore, especially in the East.
    Thanks for the memory.

  • Love this story, it’s hilarious!

    My dad, who started flying in 1948, did the exact same thing as a teenager out of a Luscombe 8A … with similar results. He’s carried a pee bottle ever since.

  • Years ago, one of my student pilots took food and a thermos of coffee on his first cross country. When the inevitable happened, he wasn’t clever enough to put the coffee back in the thermos. Instead, he put it into the screw-on steel cup/lid … cupful by cupful, each dutifully dumped out the window. When I went to the flightline to see if he got back, I found him laboriously cleaning both the inside & the outside of a poor little Cessna 150.

    • Pretty nonchalant to bring coffee and food. I can’t imagine the cupful thing working any better and this confirms it.

  • In the late 1960s my father in law to be had a Piper Cherokee 180C and also had a prostate problem. He had a cattle station (ranch) in far western Queensland 80 nautical miles west of Thargomindah (look it up on google earth). Aerodromes were few and far between so a quick landing to answer the call of nature was not on. He solved the problem by carrying a one pint wide mouthed milk bottle. To empty the milk bottle in flight he carried a three foot length of 1/4 inch internal diameter flexible PVC tubing. He would open the storm window in flight, hang one end of the tube out the window and the resulting vacuum in the tube would siphon the contents of the milk jar overboard. It worked a treat.

  • Every pilot must have a similar story. Before an IFR flight from KHII to KSDL, I made a serious mistake of having two cups of coffee instead of my usual one. Halfway home, the pressure was building, but I was sure I could land and run to the bathroom. On final, I had it made! But after landing, I blew my nose wheel! After landing I called tower to ask for a tow. I managed to get out and relieved myself waiting for the tug, much to the amusement of passing biz jets. When it arrived, the driver excitedly asked, “Is that a fuel leak?”

  • I was in Pendleton, OR, meeting a customer, then flying from Pendleton to Santa Rosa, CA. The Hawk XP I was flying needed one fuel stop to make the trip. I had my wife and an employee with me and wanted them to see Crater Lake from the air. During breakfast with the customer, I had several cups of coffee and then another on in the plane before we reached Crater Lake. After circling the lake, I started letting down for Klamath Falls to pick up fuel. As we left 10.5K’ over the lake on our way to Klamath at about 4100′ (roughly 50 nm distance) I suddenly needed to go. There was one airport about halfway to LMT, but it would have taken as long to get down to it as it would to reach LMT. About 10 miles out I contacted the tower and asked for a straight in to 14. They approved that and told me I was number 6 to land behind the 5 Navy P-3s shooting touch and goes. I had to slow down for sequencing to about 90kts. I landed, turned off at the first exit, taxied to the FBO at a higher rate of speed than normal, shutting things down as we rolled onto the ramp and then ran as hard as I could to their facility. I just barely made it. I never flew without a bottle again.

  • Flying east to Oshkosh Fly In many years ago, Dave was flying the lead as his 182 was faster than mine. Over Wyoming someplace, he came on the radio and mentioned that he was slowing down to take care of something. Nothing sounded urgent so I mentioned to my passengers that we should catch sight of him soon.
    Dave later tells the story that his passenger consumed several cups of coffee before departing, reassuring Dave that he had a large bladder. As the story goes, Dave discovered a discarded “Little John Pilot Urinal” in the trash. Thinking it might come in handy – he loaded it with the baggage.
    Several hours later the passenger needed relief, but no close by airports, so Dave dug out the bottle. They both soon found out why the bottle was in the trash. With it leaking profusely – it was quite difficult getting it out the window. Now that bottle is decorating some of Wyoming’s beautiful high desert and the plane & baggage suffered a distinct odor………

  • Well written and fun! Funnier than when it actually happens to you… That’s how I found out about the second life of a Coke can over the Quebec wilderness. Now at close to 65, reduced hydration and bladder management are very important pre-flight items. Not so long ago a plastic bottle came in handy on the outbound leg of an IFR approach….

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