Mar 202010

In 2003 Mythbusters investigated a “myth” or event that allegedly occurred in 2001 aboard an airplane. Kudos to Mythbusters for at least giving us oblique references as to their source material for the “myth.” From the meager hints given on the TV, I was able to find this website, which can be translated into English using a variety of tools, including Google.

Google translates it as follows:

Woman was hungry for the SAS WC
An American woman on an SAS plane en route from Scandinavia to New York was sitting on the toilet for several hours, said TT. She tried to flush without getting up, but then formed a vacuum and she got stuck, write the Norwegian tabloid VG’s online edition. – It was impossible to get off her, “says Siv Meisingseth at SAS in Oslo to the newspaper. In New York, managed to dislodge the woman technician.
Published: 2002-01-21

Mythbusters set out to test the “myth” in classic fashion, using models instead of real human beings. Thankfully their test design was able to incorporate some really good TV-grade science in modeling a prosthetic butt from a real butt. Good science should always document each phase of the test procedure and Mythbusters was up to the task:

In any event, Mythbusters couldn’t duplicate the supposed suction event. Frankly I have no quarrel with their test design or conclusion, although it should be noted that some obese people have trouble simply standing up. It’s possible that the story may have become confabulated from “failure to stand up” to “being held down by the suction of a toilet.”

Strangely enough, this was not the first time such an incident had been reported. In 1992 Led Zeppelin’s tour manager Richard Cole wrote a book entitled Stairway to Heaven: Led Zeppelin Uncensored. ISBN 0-06-018323-3. On page 250 Cole recounts an episode involving John Bonham aboard their rented Boeing 720B:

“One afternoon, on a flight to Cincinnati for a concert at Riverfront Stadium, the Starship had been in the air only fifteen minutes when I heard banging and shouts coming from the bathroom.

“Get me out! Get me out!”

It was Bonzo. The bathroom door was locked. I hit it with a couple of Bruce Lee kicks. The door trembled, then it collapsed. There, before my eyes, sat Bonzo, perched on the can with his pants down, literally unable to move.

“Help me, damn it!”

As hard as he was trying, Bonzo couldn’t stand up. Apparently, a mechanic had not properly sealed the vent beneath the toilet, and air pressure was literally sucking him down, keeping his ass anchored to the seat.

I grabbed Bonham by the arms and pulled him free. “Oh, my God!” he gasped, feeling terribly shaken but not hurt. He pulled up his pants and didn’t seem the least bit embarrassed by what had happened. He was probably just happy to be alive. As he returned to the main cabin of the plane, he mumbled, “I’m never gonna trust a toilet seat again.”

If I’m interpreting Cole’s chronology correctly, this event would have occurred in 1973!

 Posted by on 03/20/2010 Science

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