The US Air Force will receive an improved in-flight bladder relief device early next month, helping fighter pilots, especially females, to urinate more easily.
A sortie can be up to 10 hours long, F-35A Lightning II pilot Maj. Nikki Yogi said, approximating the duration between her Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, and Guam.
Having had a poor experience with her device while deployed as an A-10 pilot in 2017, Yogi added, “A pilot should be focused on taking the fight to the enemy, not on whether their bladder relief device is going to work or be comfortable to use.”
The Air Combat Command and Air Force Materiel Command developed the device, called the Omni Gen. 3 Skydrate, within a year. Current devices are not suitable for long sorties, forcing pilots to relieve themselves before the flight, potentially “reducing their endurance and tolerance to G forces.”
The Omni Gen. 3 Skydrate features improvements over current systems such as a “larger collection bag, improved flow rate, multiple hose lengths, one-hand operation for on/off functionality, and more interface (pad) sizes to account for anatomical differences in the wearer,” the service revealed.
The service had been using, at least till 2019, a bladder-relief method which involves “peeing into a bag…with a wearable device that detects urine and flushes it into a bag for storage,” Popular Mechanics wrote.
In an alternative method, the pilot pees into a plastic pack which converts urine into a gel for disposal. However, the method involves “partial undressing while sitting strapped in a tiny cockpit,” the outlet explained.
Flight tests on the device included multi-hour wear tests on 30 female aircrew — nine of whom were pilots — at three installations.
Lead test engineer Sharon Rogers called the tests “a good example of using a ‘fly, fix, fly’ model to prioritize female aircrew feedback and speed up the testing process to field the device quicker.”
The device, which is available for both men and women, will be available by the Spring of 2022.