Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The strange tale of why aircraft toilets have ashtrays

Matt Simmons writes an excellent article with lots of helpful pictures, Engineering Infrastructures For Humanson why aircraft toilets have ashtrays. In a nutshell Matt explains that airlines do not want us to smoke on flights and will do everything in their power to prevent this happening whilst airline regulators mandate that no commercial jet can take off without a fully functioning ashtray in all its lavatories. Disconnect? 

Matt concludes "That’s an awfully strange stance to take for a vehicle with such a stringent “no smoking” policy, but it really does make a lot of sense. Back in 1973, a flight crashed and killed 123 people, and the reason for the crash was attributed to a cigarette that was improperly disposed of. The FAA has decided that some people (despite the policies against smoking, the warning placards, the smoke detector, and the flight attendants) will smoke anyway, and when they do, there had better be a good place to put that cigarette butt!" 

So it actually makes perfect sense that aircraft toilets have ashtrays and is an example of the principle of good design known as affordance.

Ken Thompson (aka The BumbleBee) blogs about bioteams, virtual collaboration and business simulation at www.bioteams.com.