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Here's One Airplane Bathroom That's Impervious to Hijacking

February 17, 2014 at 3:25 PM | by | ()

Above: the cockpit lavatory of the Boeing 747-8i

There's a new jumbo jet plying the skies—the Boeing 747-8. Unfortunately it's not among Boeing's top sellers, and only one airline (Lufthansa) is currently flying it with passengers.

We mention it now because the 747-8 is the only Boeing commercial aircraft with a built-in feature which would've prevented a hijacking situation like what happened with Ethiopian flight 702 earlier today. That feature: a restroom and rest area just for the cockpit, located behind the armored flight deck door, which means both pilot and co-pilot never have to leave the secure area to use the restroom.

At the debut of the 747-8 Intercontinental in June 2012, Boeing chief pilot Mark Feuerstein noted the advantages of having this lavatory and crew rest quarters inside the cockpit, as it increases security and minimizes flight crew absence from the flight deck. [Update: The restroom within the flight deck is actually an option on all 747s, and some older 747-400s have it (such as in the case of Qantas' 744 fleet), but the 747-8i is the first aircraft where it's been the popular option].

In the case of hijacked flight ET 702, the co-pilot of the Boeing 767 waited until the pilot left the cockpit to use the toilet, which is located at the front of the passenger cabin. Regulations mandate he close the door behind him. When the pilot attempted to return, he found the cockpit door locked; the co-pilot had begun the hijacking of the aircraft to seek asylum in Geneva, assuming complete control.

During the situation, we received a tweet from reader @StargardtEyes: "I thought all those jets had separate pilot restrooms. Learned something."

In fact it's the opposite case, with all Boeing aircraft but the 747-8 positioning all lavatories in the passenger cabin. We're not saying that airlines need to buy up the 747-8 simply for this security feature, even though having many more of the newer version of the Queen of the Skies would be lovely, and the co-pilot could still have found some way to jam the lavatory door closed, but the fact of the matter still stands: the Ethiopian co-pilot of the 767 was able to hijack the airplane without fuss once any possible opposition was on the other side of the armored cockpit door.

[Photo: Jaunted]

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