(Top photo: Flickr user aero_icarus)
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
It has been two years since our lives changed forever. Perhaps you didn't feel it at the time – the gigantic forces and thrusts that keep a plane soaring high in the clouds above us become imperceptible waffles to us down here on the ground; the catastrophic anal events that led to its grounding a minor blip among all the collective atoms of the universe – but it happened, and we were all alive for it, and it has changed us. Some mysteries haunt the collective human psyche more than others; puzzles that will never be solved, no matter how many bright minds we throw at them: the Tamam Shud case, JFK, DB Cooper. Add to that: Whoever Done A Shit On A BA Flight To Dubai That Was So Bad The Plane Had To Turn Around And Come Back Again.
To recap: someone done a shit on a BA flight to Dubai two years ago, and the shit was so bad the plane had to turn around and come back again. Here's what we know, from the BBC:
A British Airways flight was forced to turn around because of a "smelly poo".
The plane was heading from Heathrow to Dubai on Thursday – a seven-hour flight.
Abhishek Sachdev, who was on board tweeted: "Insane. Our BA flight to Dubai returned back to Heathrow because of a smelly poo in the toilet."
Abhishek did not respond to a request for comment. Here's the BBC again:
He told a newspaper: "The pilot made an announcement requesting senior cabin crew, and we knew something was a bit odd.
"About 10 minutes later he said 'you may have noticed there's a quite pungent smell coming from one of the toilets'.
"He said it was liquid faecal excrement. Those are the words he used."
The plane had been airborne for just 30 minutes when it turned round.
The next available flight was 15 hours later, so passengers had to be put up in a hotel overnight.
A BA spokesperson – and, again, BA did not respond to a request for comment; nobody wants to talk about this, which only suggests a cover-up – told Radio 1 at the time: "When you're up at that altitude the cabin has to be pressurised, so the problem is that anything like that is actually a health and safety problem because only 50 percent of the air is being recycled and cleaned."
So we know what happened: someone did a shit so bad it endangered the air. We know the result: the plane turned around and landed, and a flight full of passengers spent a night at a hotel next to Heathrow. And we know what ensued: a mystery that has captivated a generation. But what still don't we know? What questions still aren't answered? Readers, help me with this mystery:
WHAT IS THE PILOT PROCEDURE WHEN DECIDING WHETHER TO TURN A PLANE AROUND AND LAND IT BECAUSE SOMEONE DID SHIT WRONG ALL UP AND OVER A TOILET?
Okay, so I watched Sully. Sully, in case you haven't seen it, is a film about a quiet and entirely white man landing a plane in a river. He did this because the plane hit just a shitload of birds on the way up after takeoff, and then the engine went, and then there wasn't really enough juice to get back to the airport or another airport nearby, so Sully – the main dude in Sully is called Sully – very carefully crashed the plane into the river. This film was terrible, by the way; I hated it. It could have been a really cool film – just a dude going "I CRASHED A PLANE IN A FUCKING RIVER AND EVERYONE LIVED, GET THE FUCK ON MY LEVEL!" for two hours – but instead it turned into this whole weird patriotic America-is-great thing, and then at the end of the film Real Sully came out and all the Real Passengers thanked him and started applauding him, and what could have been really boss turned into this gross kind of schmaltzfest. America.
Anyway, the main thing I learned from Sully is in case of emergencies and/or big decisions regarding the plight of an aeroplane and everybody on that aeroplane, pilots have to make very quick and decisive decisions, and stay very cool and calm. Sully from Sully did that, which is why they made a film called Sully. The pilot of the Heathrow–Dubai flight on that fateful day in March '15 also did that, which is why we are talking about it still now.
But what are the logistics of that? Did the flight attendant on the plane have to inspect the toilet first? At what point did they have to escalate that information to the pilot? Is there a special aviation code for this situation? "Sir, I'm so sorry to disturb you: we've got a real 104 in Toilet #5"? Did the pilot radio out for additional support? "Hey man, we, uh… we kind of got a, uh. Listen, I'll level with you: someone did a really bad shit up in here. Toilet stuff all over the place. Don't think it's cool to breathe that. Can we come home?" And there were skrt-ing sounds on the other end of the radio, and a long, long pause, and then somebody on the ground said: "Yes," they said: "Yes, it is probably best you turn this one around, Big Boy. We can't have that amount of shit sloshing around up there."
CONSIDER THIS: THE SHEER CLIQUENESS OF PLANE BATHROOMS
The 747-400 has 31 toilets on-board, but sometimes that seems to differ depending on which blueprint you look at. Among a maximum 416 passengers, that's a pretty high toilet:toilet needer ratio, but if that changes at all – I read one 747-400 spec that only seemed to have six toilets in it, and I figure toilet space is primo in case you need other facilities putting in there – then what happens, and you know this from every single time you have been on a plane, is queues form.
Now, aeroplane bathrooms are strange little places: crevices and cupboard-sized, with concertinaed doors, sinks that do a horrible juddering clunk instead of just washing water away, curious yellow lighting, all that. They are hard to navigate for a piss or shit at the best of times. It takes a while to get your business done in an aeroplane bathroom. You are doing a natural thing in an alien environment.
So add the queues of people that formed due to the insufficient toilet number situation to the extra time it takes to do shit in an aeroplane bathroom, and you have what's known as "a slightly bigger queue".
On an aeroplane, your focus drifts. You either lock yourself in with a movie, or pretend you are one of those people who can read on a plane who then immediately falls asleep, or you just sort of stare at headrests and wait for food to arrive. It is a curious world, detached from any anchor to the ground below it. You're stood in the queue for a bathroom. It's been a while. You are going to assess the faces of every single person stood before and behind you in that queue, out of sheer boredom.
What I am saying is: I can still recall about two of the faces of the people behind me when I waited for a piss on the last plane I took, in October. You think the person who took the Dubai poo plane, and was first to the toilet after the Dubai pooer, and saw the chaos they had wrought: you think that person doesn't know who did it? They know. Someone in that plane – they were in a queue and they lost their focus, then something terrible happened in a toilet – someone on that plane knows who did the shit.
WHAT MEETINGS AT BA DID THEY HAVE TO ADJUDICATE PASSENGER REPARATION?
Just imagining various high level executives in blazers and skirts yelling in an airily lit room at some airport somewhere, tap water in a jug on the table, pointing to each other, somewhere between baffled and furious, the executives, going, "I mean, it was a shit. How many people do we have to put up in a Travelodge?"
WHAT DID THE PERSON DOING THE SHIT EAT DIRECTLY BEFORE DOING THE SHIT?
Last year, on the previous anniversary of poo plane, I speculated about the identity of the shit doer – trying, Crimewatch-style, to daub a vague picture of the attacker – and I said that my overwhelming feeling was that it could have been a man: I am sorry about that. Many, many women have been in touch with me since to tell me about "period shits", a unique way of shitting women have that sounds bad. This throws my previous calculations way off: the gender of the shitter cannot truly be divined. We can only speculate now on the diet of the person who brought a plane down with their poop.
Here are some possibles that have been mooted: loads, and I mean loads, of Guinness and curry; Haribo sugar-free gummy bears; "Swedish food"; the "medium-rare chicken" meme that is going around a lot; I recall a warning sign on a lot of packets of Polos, back in the day, saying they were extremely laxative-like in high doses, so maybe the plane poo person ate a just fantastic amount of Polos. We have to figure there was something digestively amiss: the shit in question was both i. fetid and ii. not entirely in the toilet. The person who did it does not normally shit like that. It is to be presumed that – even now, two years later – they feel quite bad about it. But what food or food combination made it happen?
WHO. DID. THE POO.
I just don't know any more. This is going to haunt me to the grave. People have passed me tips in the past and they have always led to nothing: wild goose chases down Facebook, searching "checked in" tags for Dubai attractions, chasing up names that didn't exist. One guy tried to tell me he knew the shitter but would only identify them through elaborate bridge-troll riddles about what university they went to and where they grew up. I may never know. We may never know. I will drive myself mad on the desolate rock of The Plane Shitter.
If it is you: please, please, grant an interview with me. I promise absolute watertight anonymity. I will not alert the authorities. I am a sympathetic interviewer. I am nice. You can call me deepthroat-style on the office phone. I do not need to know your name. I just need to know the emotions: the panic, the despair, what that night in a Travelodge as a criminal felt like. How, with distance, do you feel about it now? Are you ready to talk? Please, poo plane doer, please: reach out to me. I am here. Solve this mystery for me before it rolls around to Year Three.
Follow this saga from the start unto the end:
Someone Did a Shit So Bad On a British Airways Plane That It Had to Turn Around and Come Back Again