Blue ice, a rare occurrence: Airline

The NGT asked the DGCA to issue a circular on waste release to all airlines using theDelhi airport—pHOTO: R.V. Moorthy

The NGT asked the DGCA to issue a circular on waste release to all airlines using theDelhi airport—pHOTO: R.V. Moorthy  

Airlines have said it is not possible to empty toilet tanks in mid-air as claimed in a petition before the National Green Tribunal.

An AirAsia India spokesperson said: “AirAsia India lavatory waste draining and disposal is outsourced to Globe Ground India (GGI). They collect the waste from the aircraft and dump it in an airport-designated waste dumping location.”

A Vistara spokesperson said the airline follows the procedures as per the Aircraft Maintenance Manual according to which waste is to be emptied into specialised waste carts.

“All necessary health, environment and safety procedure are taken while carrying out these activities,” the spokesperson said, adding that emptying toilet tanks is not possible mid-air in modern pressurised aircraft.

Jet Airways said ‘blue ice’, a term used for frozen sewage material leaked mid-air, as a “rare occurrence” which signifies “a leaking toilet system, leading to the formation of accumulation of ice in high altitude.”

‘Standard checks done ’

The airline conducts standard checks that include removing the waste from the aircraft and taking it to the designated waste-disposal system after every flight, a spokesperson said.

In its order, the NGT had asked the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to issue a circular to all airlines using the Delhi airport to ensure that they do not release any waste while landing or taking off at the airport or near it.

It also asked the aviation regulator to impose an environmental compensation of Rs. 50,000 per violation of the circular and submit a quarterly report to the tribunal.

The petitioner had told the court that excreta fall due to “evacuation of the aircraft toilet canisters while flying on the houses of people” living in residential areas near the airport.

“There is one exterior lever outside the aircraft and only the ground crew can operate the valve that opens the tank while the plane is on the ground,” said Bimal K. Srivastava, retired General Manager at Airports Authority of India, who has done extensive research on ‘blue ice.’ He added that “under no circumstances” can a pilot empty the storage tank during the flight.

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