A basic biological need for women pilots may, at last, be met.
Until now, women in the U.S. Air Force have not had a safe or reliable way to urinate during long flights, since existing technology was designed with men’s bodies in mind. But at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina, military pilots will be testing out a device that might finally bring relief.
The prototype, dubbed Airus, consists of a lined cup attached to a pumping system and storage bag. It’s designed to allow pilots to relieve themselves without having to remove equipment.
“We brought in a lot of female experts to really take a look at what this is and how to make a system for women, from women, versus being a male-driven design,” Cam Chidiac of Airion Health, which developed Airus, told Military.com.
As noted, previous technology did not take women pilots into consideration – to say the least. But as more have entered military service, the Air Force began to seek safe, reliable alternatives. The Airus is the first method to be tested.
“Safe” is an especially critical word, as many women pilots currently resort to decidedly unsafe methods of managing long flights, from wearing diapers, to foregoing liquids, to simply holding in urine. All three can result in significant health risks.
The strategy referred to as “tactical dehydration” is especially worrisome, experts add, as doing so “can cause fatal errors and health issues, such as lowering the aircrews’ ability to withstand high g-forces by 50%, and increase headaches.”
This device stands to be the latest in a series of shifts to benefit women pilots in the Air Force, following rule changes in recent years that allow for a wider range of hairstyles and accommodate pregnant service members.