New Device Helps Fighter Pilots Urinate. And Possibly Saves Lives

Capt. Michelle “Mace” Curran, 355th Fighter Squadron F-16 pilot, looks up during launch preparations on the flightline, March 4, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samantha Mathison)
Capt. Michelle “Mace” Curran, 355th Fighter Squadron F-16 pilot, looks up during launch preparations on the flightline, March 4, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samantha Mathison)

Most of us take our bathroom breaks for granted, but it's more complicated for fighter pilots who fly an aircraft for hours at a time.

The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center's Human Systems Division is working closely with aircrews and industry experts to develop and improve bladder relief devices -- especially for female pilots. The group is updating the device through a joint effort with Vermont-based contractor Omni Medical Systems.

The division began delivering the Aircrew Mission Extender Device -- known as AMXDmax -- earlier this year. More than 600 devices have been put in the field so far, and another 1,500 are scheduled for delivery in the next six months, according to the Air Force.

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The new devices are hands-free, battery operated and worn underneath uniforms. The device collects urine in a cup for males and a pad for females. It then pumps it into a collection bag. Embedded with sensors, the device quickly detects urine within one second and pumps it into the collection bag. It can hold a total of 1.7 quarts of urine.

"Urinary [relief] devices are the number one priority that female aircrews have when it comes to mission equipment," said Lt. Col. Elaine Bryant, deputy director of the Human Systems Division. "They are a vast improvement over the legacy relief devices that many aircrews are currently using. The battery life is longer, it holds more urine, the pads are better, the cups are better and overall it's more anatomically correct."

The device can actually save lives, Mark Bernier, program manager for the Aircrew Mission Extender Device, told The Dayton Daily News. He said he's passionate about constantly improving the bladder device for fighter pilots, which ultimately helps them focus on the missions they fly.

The AMXD was developed to stop pilots from practicing "tactical dehydration," Bernier said. In the past, pilots would drink less water to limit urine output during a flight -- which can be a fatal mistake. Dehydration fatally impacts G-tolerance, situational awareness and decision-making ability for pilots maneuvering highly sophisticated fighter jets.

"The AMXDmax allows pilots to hydrate properly and relieve their bladder mid-flight, without interrupting the mission," according to Omni Medical Systems.

The Human Systems Division also helps train aircrews in the proper usage of the devices.

This article is written by Kara Driscoll from The Dayton Daily News and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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