A Pilot Must Compartmentalise Her Bladder Functions (Translation: A Pilot Must Learn to Hold Her Pee)
A Pilot Must Compartmentalise Her Bladder Functions (Translation: A Pilot Must Learn to Hold Her Pee)

A Pilot Must Compartmentalise Her Bladder Functions (Translation: A Pilot Must Learn to Hold Her Pee)

We are high.

There’s a an aircraft departing from the island where we’re headed. For separation sake, air traffic control is keeping us at 5000 feet. This is common practice. We don’t want two airborne aircraft in close proximity to each other, do we? That would be catastrophic.

But we should be lower. Way, way lower.

I watch the hollow diamond dance beside my altitude indication. It’s below the altitude reference bar, which is defo a bad thing. The magenta diamond is our glide slope index. It is an indication of the glide slope in relative to our height, a measure of our vertical trajectory. We want the diamond smack in the middle of the altitude reference bar. Above means we’re too low and vice versa.

The diamonds are centred in the above scenario.

Right now, we’re about one entire index dot above the diamond, which means we’re sohai too high.

This phase of flight is critical. Screwing up could mean a mandatory go around, which really isn’t as bad as the alternative- swimming with the fishes in the ocean beyond the runway.

I’m trying to concentrate. Except, I need to pee.

There’s an article that suggest driving with a full bladder is akin to driving with a 0.05% blood alcohol level. In Malaysia, the legal limit is 0.08%. See how flying under similar conditions could be a bad, bad idea?

Cartoon credit: www.alamy.com

We’re on the localizer. This means our lateral trajectory is spot on. The horizontal diamond is centred. I can see the runway ahead. We’re dead centre. Laterally, we’re good to go.

But vertically? The diamond is creeping from us. Sinking slowly like a water balloon in a tub of warm water.

Do you know what looks like a water balloon? Answer: My bladder. That versicle of urine housed in my pelvic region. I should have gone for a leak earlier, I know. But if one of the pilots leaves, a cabin crew has to abandon post and join the remaining pilot in the cockpit. This is a precaution in case the pilot dies mid-flight or decides to pull a Germanwings-type stunt like that of Flight 9525.

So you see why I didn’t go. I’m reluctant to steal them from their duties, especially on a full flight with non-stop action like this one. In the name of altruism, I decided to just hold it.

Which was a bad idea.

The air traffic controller finally clears us to descend to 2200 feet.

Time to rock and roll.

I throw out the speed brakes with a swift yank of the handle. “Gear down,” I instruct. The FOOTD tugs on a lever and we are rewarded with the vehement roar of a lowering landing gear. It’s magic, I tell you. The landing gear- slows her down, drops her like a rock. Today, it’s both. I watch the airspeed bleed off and the magenta diamond rush up to meet us.

GS*, reads the FMA. This means the diamond is centred. The arrow is in the bullseye. The ball is through the hoop. We are on the correct flight path.


Did I mention I need to pee?

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