First, a bit of history. Sometime during the mid-90s, there was a long
discussion on the Hang Gliding Mailing List regarding the use of relief
tubes and how to keep them from falling off. This discussion dragged on
for quite some time. At last, determined to offer some useful suggestions
on this important subject, I posted the following contribution. For some
unexplained reason, the discussion ground to an abrupt halt the very next
The Famous Relief Tube Post
(c) Paul Gazis, 2009, alas
One of the biggest challenges facing serious cross country pilots is how
to answer the call of nature during a long flight. For female pilots, the
alternatives are limited. Male pilots can take advantage of an invention
known as a ‘relief tube’. These devices -- known by a variety of other
names that may not be appropriate for a public forum such as this --
consist of a long tube attached to a handy elastic sleeve that can be
unrolled to provide a snug and water-tight fit. Unfortunately, during the
stress and turmoil of a challenging flight, relief tubes have been known to
come loose, with unfortunate consequences. For this reason, a wise pilot
may wish to take one of the following precautions to improve the quality of
For obvious reasons, this glue must not be soluble in water. But
for equally obvious reasons, it must be soluble in
Advantages: Simple, straightforward, and comparatively inexpensive.
Disadvantages: Messy and inconvenient. Also, some pilots complain that
this method can reduce sensitivity and make flight less ‘spontaneous’.
Used alone or in conjunction with other methods, this technique can provide a
secure attachment that is unlikely to fail even in severe turbulence.
Advantages: Robust, sturdy, and reliable.
Disadvantages: Requires trained medical personnel to apply. Repeated
use can lead to inflammation.
Examine your attachment point. You will notice that it contains a small
orifice. Drill and tap this orifice to a depth of approximately ˝". Machine a
brass fitting of the appropriate diameter and fit this with a o-ring and sealant.
Note: to avoid a repetition of the Challenger disaster, this o-ring
should be suitable for use at low-temperatures and high altitudes.
Advantages: The slick ‘high-tech’ appearance makes this method attractive
to many modern pilots.
Disadvantages: Complicated, expensive, and can be prone to failure in
dusty environments. Also, care must be taken to avoid cross-threading.
Advantages: Tough and durable, this method can be applied by unskilled
equipment that can be found in the field.
Disadvantages: This method is not for everyone. But it shows a profound
level of commitment -- the type of commitment that separates truly great pilots
from the common run of humanity.