Science Gives Us Permission to Toot on a Plane


Listen up. We all know I have faults. You readers are quick to point them out, thank you. But The Tarmac has never resorted to bathroom humor. Never going there. But a detailed scientific study has come out of New Zealand, so I think it’s time we discuss flatulence while flying.

FT members, this is serious science. It’s right here in the peer-reviewed New Zealand Journal of Medicine in an article entitled: Flatulence on airplanes: just let it go.

First, the facts. Flying increases flatulence. Variations in altitude result in air pressure changes in our digestive tract causing flatulence, according to the scientists who sniff around this topic. (Gerry, don’t cross that joke line.)

One of the lead scientists on the flatulence study is a Danish gastroenterologist named Jacob Rosenberg. The idea for the study came to him while flying from Copenhagen to Tokyo. It came from deep within him until he couldn’t contain it any more. (Gerry, stop it.)

The Danish doctor worked with four other British and New Zealand doctors on the study. (Not on the same flight, I hope for their sakes.)

Let’s skip right to the medical recommendations of the 3,000-word paper that was published last week. The study clearly states that it is best to forget social awkwardness and “just let it go.”

What about in the cockpit? It’s a no-win situation.

“On the one hand, if the pilot restrains a fart, all the drawbacks previously mentioned [from not “letting go”], including impaired concentration, may affect his abilities to control the plane,” the researchers wrote. (Readers, I’m not making this up!)

“On the other hand, if he lets go of the fart, his co-pilot may be affected by its odor, which again reduces safety onboard the flight.”

Keep in mind, the researchers wrote all the above with a straight (maybe pained?) face.

Researchers also suggest airlines upgrade seat cushions to a more odor absorbing material. The leather seats often found in first-class cabins are the worst, they say.

I’m hoping our resident flight attendant at FlyerTalk’s “The Hub” will weigh in and bring revivifying oxygen to this topic. And if there are any engineers out there, how about inventing some nose-cancelling headphones to go with noise-cancelling ones.

Have a nice flight.


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Comments (Showing 3 of 3)

  • jtav559 at 4:51pm February 20, 2013

    Or you could just go to the Lav and let ’em rip in there….

  • PainCorp at 7:33pm February 20, 2013

    Oh come on, there was so much potential in this last sentence. You should have said, “I’m hoping our resident flight attendant at FlyerTalk’s “The Hub” will weigh in and help rectify this topic.”

  • ShuaiGuy at 9:41am February 22, 2013

    Sorry will never agree with this… Was on a trans-pacific flight with my wife in economy. There was a heavy-set guy in the seat in front of us that must have had the stomach flu or something as it was so bad I almost thew-up on a couple of occasions. The flight attendant looked to move us into business or first… but nothing was available. The final solution was to put a bunch of open coffee grounds bags in the seat pockets and floor around our seats…. helped some. Longest flight ever.

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