Last updated: 01:00 PM ET, Thu March 10 2016

When Will Boeing's Patented Self-Cleaning Airplane Bathroom Debut?

Airlines & Airports | Paul Thompson | March 10, 2016

When Will Boeing's Patented Self-Cleaning Airplane Bathroom Debut?

Photos and video courtesy of Boeing

After turbulence and cramped leg room, having to use the claustrophobic and often stinky airplane bathroom is probably the most unpleasant thing about flying commercial airlines. But Boeing has done something to make the experience more pleasant, if not less germy, by creating a self-cleaning airplane lavatory. But how soon will fliers be stepping into one of these next-generation restrooms at 35,000 feet?

To many, all airplane lavatories are alike, but that’s far from true. Though some are so tight you actually have to hunch down to wash your hands, other lavs are downright spacious. For example, Lufthansa’s Airbus A380s boast the world’s first urinals in the First Class lavatory. Emirates is known for showers in First Class. Qatar Airways’ Boeing 787 Dreamliners have a window in the lav. Talk about a loo with a view!

READ MORE: Five Airport and Airline Secrets and Tips You Should Know

What’s special about the new Clean Lavatory? This prototype lav uses ultraviolet light to flood all of the touchable surfaces and kill 99.99 percent of pathogens, sanitizing all surfaces, according to Boeing. Touchless soap dispensers and faucets are also available. As a precaution, the UV lights only come on when the door is closed and the lavatory is unoccupied.

Boeing has filed for a patent on this technology. The UV light being used is different from the harmful cancer-causing UV-A and UV-B light. The Boeing Research & Technology team has shown through testing on a prototype that these innovations can minimize the growth and potential transmission of disease-causing microorganisms. “The UV light destroys all known microbes by literally making them explode,” said Jamie Childress, Associate Technical Fellow and a BR&T engineer. “It matches the resonant frequency of the molecular bonds on the outside of the microbes.”

Boeing’s concept lav is up for a prestigious Crystal Cabin Award at this years’ Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany next month. The awards are given to the most innovative and attractive new products for airline cabins. The Expo is the world’s largest trade show for vendors and airlines to select anything and everything related to your experience as an airline passenger, from seats to peanuts.

READ MORE: Boeing Solved Sleeping on a Plane and It Looks Hilariously Uncomfortable

While the Clean Lavatory will eliminate exposure to germs, it doesn’t mean we’ll see these on any flights any time soon. It’s up to the airlines to purchase and install them, along with those touchless soap dispensers and faucets. Still no word on anything that will automatically dry those mysterious drips on the floor. We’ll continue to keep our head in the clouds for that particular innovation. 


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