In aviation, blue ice is frozen sewage material that has leaked mid-flight from commercial aircraft lavatory waste systems. It is a mixture of human biowaste and liquid disinfectant that freezes at high altitude. The name comes from the blue color of the disinfectant. Airlines are not allowed to dump their waste tanks mid-flight, and pilots have no mechanism by which to do so; however, leaks sometimes do occur from a plane's septic tank.
Danger of ground impact
There were at least 27 documented incidents of blue ice impacts in the United States between 1979 and 2003. These incidents typically happen under airport landing paths as the mass warms sufficiently to detach from the plane during its descent. A rare incident of falling blue ice causing damage to the roof of a home was reported on October 20, 2006 in Chino, California. A similar incident was reported in Leicester, UK, in 2007.
In November 2011, a chunk of ice, the size of an orange, broke through the roof of a private house in Ratingen-Hösel, Germany.
In February 2013, a "football sized" ball of blue ice smashed through a conservatory roof in Clanfield, Hampshire, causing around £10,000 worth of damage.
Danger to aircraft
Blue ice can also be dangerous to the aircraft itself — the National Transportation Safety Board has recorded three very similar incidents where waste from lavatories caused damage to the leaking aircraft, all involving Boeing 727s. In all three cases, waste from a leaking lavatory hit one (or the other) of the three engines the 727 has mounted in the rear, causing a power loss. The flights made safe emergency landings with the two remaining engines; nobody was injured. Only one report specifically mentions ice, while another mentions "soft body FOD" (foreign object damage), indicating that the damage was caused by a relatively soft object like a bird, or even ice, as opposed to (e.g.) a stone or an object made of metal.
In popular culture
Blue ice became known to many people from the 2003 Season 3 finale of the HBO television series Six Feet Under, in which a foot-sized chunk drops on a woman, killing her. A similar incident occurs in the 1996 television series Early Edition episode “Frostbite”, when the main character saves a man from being crushed by a chunk of blue ice. It was also mentioned in The Big Bang Theory. This also happened in an episode of CSI: NY. The title of the 1992 film Blue Ice is a reference to the phenomenon. The 2001 film Joe Dirt finds the title character (played by David Spade) proudly displaying a large chunk of "blue ice" which he has mistaken for a meteorite, and the topic has also been covered on the TV show MANswers. Blue ice was also featured in an episode of the television series MythBusters. Blue ice is a cause of death in season 4 of 1000 Ways to Die. Blue ice also features in Series 6 Episode 1 of the BBC Series The Brittas Empire, in which a block of blue ice falls on the Whitbury Newtown Leisure Centre.
- Chandra, Neha (18 September 2018). "Fact File: Do aircraft really drop poop from sky?". India Today. Retrieved 2023-02-26.
- Gumz, Jondi (February 12, 2003). "Another mysterious chunk of blue ice hits". Santa Cruz Sentinel. Archived from the original on 2008-02-24. Retrieved 2007-01-04.
The Living in Everyday Earth Web site reports there have been at least 27 documented blue-ice incidents nationally in the past 24 years.
- "Toilet ice rips hole in couple's roof". Fox News. Associated Press. October 21, 2006. Retrieved 2011-01-05.
- "Frozen Pee Anyone?". BBC. June 7, 2014. Retrieved 2017-07-26.
- Essex Church in Kensington 1887-1987: History of a Unitarian Cause p25, by Raymond Williams Archived 2011-05-17 at the Wayback Machine
- "'Football-sized' ice smashes home". BBC News. February 11, 2013. Retrieved 2017-07-26.
- "Meteoriet blijkt drol uit vliegtuig". Retrieved 2016-10-31.
- "'I'm covered in poo': Transport Canada investigating feces falling from sky". June 2, 2018. Retrieved 2018-06-03.
- "Block of ice crashes through roof of house in Bristol". November 7, 2018. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
- "April 30, 1974 Incident". NTSB. Retrieved 2011-04-16.
- "April 16, 1985 Incident" (PDF). NTSB. Retrieved 2011-04-16.[permanent dead link]
- "January 04, 1990 Incident". NTSB. Retrieved 2011-04-16.
- Derek Elley (October 14, 1992). "Blue Ice Review". Variety. Retrieved 2009-03-26.
- Mark Belko (November 21, 2002). "The sky is falling? Uh, not exactly". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2007-01-04.
- "It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a block of ice?". Bay News 9.com. January 28, 2007. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007.
- "Frozen Jetliner Waste Smashes Into Home". United Press International. April 14, 2008.
- "It Came From the Sky: Human Waste, Blue Ice and Aviation". Federal Aviation Administration. 1 January 2005. Archived from the original on 19 June 2006. Retrieved 16 March 2023.