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Female Air Force pilots learning to safely urinate in-flight with new technology

Four F-15 Eagle pilots from the 3rd Wing walk to their respective jets at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, for the fini flight of Maj. Andrea Misener (far left). To her right are Capt. Jammie Jamieson, Maj. Carey Jones and Capt. Samantha Weeks. (Tech. Sgt. Keith Brown/U.S. Air Force)
March 24, 2023

Female Air Force pilots in North Carolina are among the first to test a system to make urinating easier during long flights.

The longtime concern among female military pilots could find a new answer through a new Airus system from Airion Health.

“In the summer of 2020, the Air Force put out a challenge to design bladder relief systems for female pilots,” said Cam Chidiac, Airion Health managing member. “We were one of 11 companies to win. Then in 2022, we were one of two companies to win prototyping contracts.”

Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, is the testing location for the new bladder control system for female pilots. Four additional Air Force bases will also use the design and provide feedback.

“This test requires units to perform ground integration events with the system and the aircraft and will provide human systems integration feedback,” said Justin Spurling, 46th TS aircrew flight equipment test engineer, in the statement.

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The new Airus system could provide an improved solution to the current methods that have sometimes been a concern for female pilots. For example, many women have attempted “tactical dehydration,” avoiding fluids several hours before flights. The option includes other health concerns that can be fatal when combined with high g-forces during flights.

Other past options have included adult diapers, holding it, or even using a bag system to hold urine.

The new cup liner system is designed for the female body to wear under underwear and connects to a pump system that will move the liquid away from the body and into a bag.

The Navy has also invested $1 million in devices and uniforms to help pilots relieve themselves during flights. As of 2019, the U.S. Navy Mishap Prevention and Hazard Abatement Program (MPHA) used $800,000 toward the purchase of 160 medical-grade urinary devices, which cost $5,000 apiece; the other $200,000 has been invested in two-piece flight suits.

“They’re flying long missions overseas,” Cmdr. Eddie Park, director of diversity and inclusion at Naval Air Forces, told the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services at the time. “Who wants to hold their pee for four hours?”

The move is part of a growing number of enhancements in the military to assist female military personnel better. Other recent changes have included the development of a maternity flight suit and allowing women to keep longer hairstyles than in the past.