FAA Targets Fat Pilots

The FAA will soon roll out a new medical certification policy that makes life miserable for fat pilots. Federal Air Surgeon Fred Tilton says the target isn’t fat, but obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

The new FAA pilot medical certification procedures will require your AME to calculate and report your BMI—body mass index. The BMI is a single number that is the ratio of your height and your weight. If your BMI is 40 or greater, your AME will pack you off to a board certified sleep specialist who must test you for OSA. If you have OSA you can’t fly again until Dr. Tilton and his gang are certain you have been successfully treated.

OSA is caused by physical obstruction of your airways while you sleep. Tissue in our throats and mouth relax when we sleep and can sag down and block the breathing passage. After a brief period the brain detects the low oxygen level in the blood and causes us to wake up and restore breathing. Often the OSA sufferer is not aware of the repeated awakening during the night, but sleep quality suffers by the sleep-waking cycles.

Obviously, people with significant OSA will not be fully rested and may be drowsy during the day. All sorts of other health and behavioral issues have been blamed on OSA including high blood pressure, heart attacks and personality disorders. OSA is and has been a disqualifying medical condition for pilots. What’s new is that fat pilots will be forced to prove that they don’t have OSA rather than the AME looking for the symptoms of OSA and then treating the condition. Overweight equals OSA until proven otherwise to the FAA.

A BMI of 40 is pretty large. At 6-2 and 205 pounds my BMI—according to the Federal government’s website calculations—is 26.3. If I put on 100 pounds I’m still just under the new FAA BMI target of 40. I’m lucky to have height on my side. A pilot who is 5-8 would hit the 40 BMI threshold weighing around 270, or a little less.

Dr. Tilton’s position is that a big majority of people with a BMI of 40 or greater do have OSA. The medical literature certainly lists being overweight as a significant contributor to OSA but I haven’t seen a BMI threshold where the assumption becomes that OSA is essentially universal. But the new FAA policy will make large pilots prove they don’t have OSA whether or not they have symptoms.

In his announcement of the new OSA policy Dr. Tilton says that as time goes by the BMI threshold will be lowered from 40 because people with BMI of 30 or less also may have OSA. He doesn’t predict at what lower BMI level the FAA could force pilots to go into a sleep lab for a full OSA evaluation, but does say the FAA will keep dropping the threshold. In the future if you put on the pounds, get ready for a trip to a certified medical sleep lab.

Probably the most intrusive aspect of the new requirement that there isn’t really a one-step cure for OSA. Most often the treatment requires people to wear a pressure breathing mask while they sleep to force air into their lungs. Can you imagine sleeping with a military style pressure breathing oxygen mask on every night? Doctors and companies that make the pressure breathing apparatus say it’s not as annoying as an MBU-XX mask strapped to your face all night, but all of us who have worn oxygen masks in the cockpit can imagine what it’s like. And the “cure” for OSA would be wearing this contraption every night for the rest of your flying career.

In some cases of OSA surgeons may cut out some of the flesh that is blocking the airway. I did see one procedure recommended that implanted struts in your throat to prop open the airway. It all sounds pretty grim.

OSA is a very real physical condition that affects many. And it should be treated seriously by anyone , pilot or not, who suffers from OSA. But medical certification should work in the normal way where symptoms are noted, studied, investigated, a cause found, and a treatment recommended. This new FAA medical certification procedure goes the other direction. Dr. Tilton assumes because you cross an arbitrary fat threshold you have OSA, whether you have symptoms or not, and it’s up to you, through costly and invasive testing, to prove you don’t have it.

Over the years I have read hundreds and hundreds of NTSB investigation reports on fatal aviation accidents and have never seen OSA listed as the probable cause of the crash, or even a contributing cause. Dr. Tilton doesn’t point to a single statistic of how many accidents have been caused by OSA, or how many accidents may be prevented with his new requirements. This is a solution in search of a problem.

I, of course, see this as part of the medical profession’s continuing crusade against weight. Many, even most AMEs, would love to be able to order us to lose weight, and nearly all insist that their pilot applicants eat less, drink less, don’t smoke and drop a bunch of pounds. But the FAA medical office could never withstand issuing an arbitrary height-weight standard for pilots. Imagine the reaction if Dr. Tilton said “you’re too fat to fly.” The docs would be guilty of weight discrimination. What they need is a “medical” justification for singling out the fat among us. And in OSA they have found their medical defense.

Dr. Tilton said he also plans to enforce the same 40 BMI threshold on air traffic controllers who  are also required to undergo FAA medical exams. But Dr. Tilton says the FAA must “finalize some logistical details” before forcing the new standards onto controllers. Could those “details” be the fact that the controllers have a union? I wonder.

This entry was posted in Mac Clellan's Left Seat Blog. Bookmark the permalink.

45 Responses to FAA Targets Fat Pilots

  1. Douglas Manuel says:

    Do you think the FAA will (like some insurance companies) classify some activities as ‘risky lifestyles’ like say flying…..?

  2. Mike Massey says:

    My (old school) flight instructor taught me that the Feds work for us, not the other way around. I remember when Bob Hoover lost his medical because of one bad bureaucrat. Keeping the government in its place is not new, but I sense an adversarial relationship between our current administration and any successful group of people in America, especially pilots. Arbitrary cylinder ADs and now Arbitrary FAA medical rules. Whats next ?

  3. Sarah A says:

    This is just rediculus. Here we are trying to get the 3rd class replaced with a drivers license and they throw on another condition that can be disqualifying. OK so maybe someone is not getting a good nights sleep and now that disqualifies you from flying. And even worse they just assume you must have the condition and force you to go through who knows how much expense and hassles to prove you do not (and the Affordable Care Act makes that even more expensive). Take a good look at the guidlines for AME’s and the conditions that have to be reported and you will find other rediculusness. Funny thing but the wife of the current president has been behind a big campaign to reduce our waist lines and now this BS. The FAA has to stop trying to build and empire and let loose on non-commercial pilots.

    • Jeff Boatright says:

      Hi Sarah,

      From the FAA website: “Frederick E. Tilton, MD, MPH, was named the FAA’s Federal Air Surgeon in January 2006.”

      Gee, that Obama sure is wily. How did he get Bush to appoint Dr. Tilton?

      You might want to edumacate yourself about FAA Fed Air Surgeons and their bad decisions. It goes back a long, long way, through many administrations, all the way to Ike.

  4. Greg says:

    Whoa whoa, the only solution is wearing a mask or surgery? How about losing the weight!! It’s always easy to pretend the easiest solution isn’t there. And as for “the medical profession’s continuing crusade against weight”… I’m pretty sure that’s the medical profession trying to reduce the number of people dying to an entirely preventable cause. I’d be far more concerned if the medical profession wasn’t working hard against it. No one is getting to 40 BMI without doing it to themselves, and virtually no one should be that obese.

    Of course the NTSB database doesn’t list OSA, but fatigue? Poor decision making? We all know how many accidents are caused by a chain of small lapses in judgement, and poor sleep is a recipe for that.

    • Mike Massey says:

      Greg, Do you also think that the government should ban sugar? Smoking? Beer?
      Driving? (30,000 people die each year on our roads) All ECI cylinders?
      With personal freedom comes personal responsibility and civil aviation is all about personal responsibility. I am not fat and do not smoke or even drink soda, but I think we need to ship the Statue of Liberty back to France if we are going to eliminate personal freedom in America and cede all personal decisions to the government.

    • Sarah A says:

      What I take exception to is this presumption that anyone past an arbitrary BMI would have OSA and force them to prove otherwise. What comes next ? Maybe all pilots past say 60 have to prove that they do not suffer from senile dementia ? Shades of the Bob Hoover debacle. This is a hige overreach by the FAA doc and he needs to have his hand slapped for it. If anything the list should be made smaller, not larger.

    • Chuck says:


      If you really believe that stuff you are spewing, I truly feel sorry for you.

      Obesity in America is an epidemic disease. Take your self righteous, most likely never had to worry about what you eat self and crawl back under a rock somewhere.

      You are a bigot that hides behind the shield of a so called healthy lifestyle.

      • Walter Hawkins says:

        There you go…name-calling when you cannot deal with the truth. Why don’t you just shuffle off to Cuba, where you’ll be much happier!! Don’t let the door hit you, on the way out of America!

        • Rachel says:

          He stated the truth pretty clear maybe you need to revaluation want the United States is because it’s not just America . Maybe you shou find your way to Mexico for your America.

    • Rodney Hall says:

      Causes of obstructive sleep apnea
      Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax. These muscles support the soft palate, the triangular piece of tissue hanging from the soft palate (uvula), the tonsils, the side walls of the throat and the tongue.

      When the muscles relax, your airway narrows or closes as you breathe in, and you can’t get an adequate breath in. This may lower the level of oxygen in your blood. Your brain senses this inability to breathe and briefly rouses you from sleep so you can reopen your airway. This awakening is usually so brief that you don’t remember it.

      From the Mayo clinic website. Being fat is not the cause of sleep apnea. Many people have it who are not fat and many fat people don’t have it there is little correlation. It also seems to occur only when you sleep on your back so why not just sleep on your stomach? Of course if you have an expensive sleep apnea mask to where you HAVE to sleep on your back.

    • Rachel says:

      Do you know many patients with OSA when losing weight to even BMI do not lose the condition. Generally people with the condition unaided continue to become fatigued and the stress chemicals plus sleepiness trigger the body to want to gain weight. How many people do you know that snore? Do you know that is a common symptom. So how many young fit man that snore go and get checked. I’m sure you will find about the same amount that admit to being sexually assualted. Weight is a symtom not a basis for the condition. So how about we have a snoring reporting system and all of the pilots must pay for an expansive sleep study that will not improve your safety to prove you don’t have a medical condition. Yup makes about the same amount of sense.

  5. Dan says:

    I’ve read the FAA brochure and the article in the FAA AME newsletter regarding this proposed rule. I cannot find any citation that indicates a sound science or medical basis for it. And they did not cite any studies that might give evidence that the BMI and subsequent follow-up medical studies would result in reducing airplane crashes. It is inconceivable to me that the medical section of a federal regulatory agency would propose a rule without data supporting a convincing risk-benefit and cost-benefit analysis.
    The two in incidents cited as the reason for the rule were the over flight of the NWA destination and the Colgan crash at Buffalo. The captain of the NWA flight was diagnosed with OSA according to the FAA. But the event did not result in any injury or deaths. I do not know of any evidence that the Captain flying the Colgan ship had OSA. The NTSB speculated that fatigue was involved but not proven.
    Regulation based on speculation, political considerations, and devoid of scientific bases are dangerous to individual freedoms and economic well being.

    • Sarah A says:

      It is common for regional airline pilots to experience fatigue due to the demanding schedules, regardless of any degree of OSA so the one cited case would hardly seem justification. It is time to get rid os the “Right Stuff” mentality at the FAA with regards to the medical qualifications of pilots. Flying is no more physically demanding then driving and imposes no more risk to the public. Just think of how many times you come withing feet of a head on collision on every drive and you see that driving a car probably requires more attention then flying an aircraft. There are regulations in place to pull the driving privlidges of people who have medical comnditions that make it unsafe and that should be just fine as the criteria to operate a light aircraft for personal use. They need to stop using us as captives to the whims of the medical profession. We are adults and we are capable of making the decision as to whether we are competent and safe to fly.

  6. James Butler says:

    Why are we not mounting a campaign to contact our Congress Critters and get this stopped?

    • Sarah A says:

      Why are we not bringing this to the attention of our representatives in Congress ? Because it would do no good short of enacting legislation to stop it. When the FAA charged the EAA for air traffic control services we complained but it made no difference. When CBP started harrasing pilots we complained to Congress but it did no good. We are dealing with burocracies that are out of control and feel that they can do as they see fit. This is just another example and it will not be the last.

  7. This is clearly a thinly veiled plot by the FAA to get me out of the National Airspace System. They’ve been trying to do that for years.

    Besides, what’s the problem with taking a little catnap at FL190? The autopilot really doesn’t need any help from me, the avionics know the route, it’s positive-control airspace, and ATC almost always wakes me up when they call to give me a frequency change. Works for me!

    Seriously, though, given that the vast majority of pilots and AMEs believe that the Third-Class Medical should go away and be replaced by a driver’s license, this strikes me as a big step in the wrong direction, at least as it applies to pilots who fly in a strictly non-commercial capacity. Every knowledgeable person I’ve spoken with (including AMEs) agree that eliminating the third-class medical altogether would have no measurable effect on accident rates. Exactly who does Dr. Tilton think he’s benefitting?

  8. TedK says:

    Innocent until proven Guilty. Period.

    A universal truth: the best thing that can happen when you see the Flight Quack is to break even.

    Another reason to build momentum for expanding flying on a drivers license.

  9. Glenn Darr says:

    just another thing with which the government can smother us. It seems to me that they want to work this thing down to where there are only slim and trim pilots in the bugsmashers!

  10. brett hawkins says:

    Greg, what a self righteous jerk. Your black and white comments about another national crisis manufactured by the AMA and big pharma indicate low levels of knowledge, experience and sophistication. Sorry bro, but I gotta call it like I see it, and you asked for it.

    Obama has been enamoured with drones his entire presidency. Someone in the military or private industry convinced him that drones are the wave of the future and that the skies need to be cleared of rich, fat, ageing, middle class, private pilots who vote Republican and dare to cruise around in their little planes for fun without permission or sufficient control. How to do it? Regulate them out of existence.

    Time for a different hobby.

  11. Mike Berg says:

    Personally, this seems like a reason for Tilton to justify his position. Kind of like congress folks proposing stupid bills so someone thinks they’re doing something useful and it gets their name out in public. There has to be some kind of a track record and related justification for something like this to make any kind of common sense.

  12. Michael Rosing says:

    A BMI of 40 is not just “pretty large”; the medical term is Morbid Obesity (BMI 40 to 49.9).

    According to this study, 74% of the morbidly obese had obstructive sleep apnea.
    In contrast, in the relatively svelte “Severely Obese” group (BMI 35 to 39.9), 71 percent had sleep apnea.

    Those with a BMI of 60 or greater have outgrown medical terminology, but in that group 95% suffered from obstructive sleep apnea.


  13. Rodney Hall says:

    From the Mayo clinic website http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sleep-apnea/DS00148/DSECTION=risk-factors : Race. In people under 35 years old, blacks are more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea.
    It is a RACIST policy and needs to end. They just want to keep the blacks out of the sky!!

  14. Dan says:

    Of course there are data that support a relationship between very high BMI and sleep apnea. And of course there is evidence linking obesity with a number of chronic diseases and premature mortality. The issue here is whether the FAA as a regulatory agency can or should deny a pilot the right and privilege to fly by setting an arbitrary BMI level above which the applicant must prove that he or she does not have one of the many obesity-associated diseases. I argue that it does not have the data needed to prove that the rule will enhance the safety of flight. And if the FAA continues on this path, they could refer all smokers of an arbitrary amount of tobacco or drinkers of an arbitrary amount of EtOH/day for testing for any number of chronic conditions.
    Under the current rules, the applicant and the AME should be specifically addressing sleep apnea as it is already among the conditions of concern the the Medical Branch has
    I can accept the notion that the BMI proposal is a well-meaning attempt to reduce the risks of fatigue in pilots. But well-meaning does not meet the standard for costly, intrusive, and scientifically unjustified federal regulations

    • Rodney Hall says:

      Exactly, will they next require certified results for any number of potential diseases based on statistics? How will the older pilot prove he doesn’t have dementia or alzhemiers? Why not force people to bring in full blood workups for blood sugar, liver functions and random drug testing? It is an over reach with no good reason behind it. Perhaps for a transport or commercial license if there are indicators of sleep apnea but why for a third class medical? There are almost no incidents of a medical condition causing a general aviation accident adn in those cases where there was a medical cause either the pilot knew about it and ignored it or it was not predictable (stroke, sudden heart attack, etc.). Most often blood tests find drugs which impaired the pilot because they were trying to fly with a cold or some other temporary condition which a medical exam every 2 years would not have had any influence over. There is no data showing that sleep apnea has ever caused or contributed to an accident that I can find. If you REALLY want to stretch it you could try and say all those accidents caused by “pilot error” MAY have been due to lack of sleep or fatigue and that MIGHT have been due to sleep apnea but there is nothing to support that. Bottom line is those with sleep apnea learn to deal with it generally and not do things like fly when they are excessively tired.

      • brett hawkins says:

        According to the FAA website, Tilton is a former Air Force pilot. In addition to the MD after his name, please note the MPH, which I assume means Master of Public Health. His picture suggests that he may be old but he is lean.

        As we all know, the military imposes high standards on potential pilots in order to separate the wannabes from the sierra hotel people who get to fly the multi-million dollar toys we pay for. As for public health, this is the archtypical “one size fits all” business. People who enter this field have delusions of grandeur, i.e. getting the power to make sweeping policies impacting millions of people based on every-changing medical studies. Talk about leverage.

        I wonder if Tilton has ever had to pay to purchase and operate an aircraft? In other words, does he have any ability to understand the actual consequences of policies which may end flying for the geezer-heavy GA population? Yeah, BMI 40+ may not hit that many, but according to Tilton this is just the start.

        By the way, I do own a Ducati (2004 999S) and they are pretty thrilling. No medical certificate required and they cost less than overhauling your 0-320.

    • Michael Rosing says:

      Many in the trucking industry expect a similar regulation to be forthcoming for commercial driver license holders, so perhaps this represents a broader consensus in the medical community than just the FAA Air Surgeon’s office.

      In any case, this is a clue to what may be a required element of any successful proposal to eliminate, or get an exemption from, the 3rd class medical certificate.

      • Sarah A says:

        Like I said in an earlier post, the wife of the current president has made weight reduction her crusade and it looks like the minions at DOT are being good little boys/girls and following this directive from above to enforce such rediculus standards on any group they are able to control. First the FAA and now the person that does similier stuff for the Trucking industry. And it does not matter how long they have been govt minnions or under what administration they were originally hired/appointed, they know who holds their leash. We got plenty of this sort of quite instruction during the sequester and the slim down. Never by any means that can be tracked or uncovered, very covertly.

  15. Mark K. Crawford says:

    This is FAA at it’s worst. EAA and AOPA are useless when trying to combat this type lunacy. EAA AOPA continue to chase fuel requirements and all sorts of useless fluff. FAA 3rd Class Medical is a big thing and needs to be changed to a drivers liscense certification period. However as long as we have idiots like Dr. Tilton we are going get now where fast. I think I am going to buy a Ducati and forget building a aircraft!!!!!

    • Greg says:

      Trust me, Dr. Tilton may be many things but he is not an idiot. Buy your Ducati.

      • Rodney Hall says:

        One does have to wonder what (if any) political pressure has come to bear for this issue. Why does this new rule come about now? Is there a sudden increase in fatigue related incidents? Maybe better rest rules would be a less invasive way to treat the problem (if there is one) and would not be applicable to the light plane vfr guy. OR maybe it is a precursor to the elimination of the 3rd class for non-commercial pilots. There has to be some reason. Things don’t happen in a vacuum.

        • Sarah A says:

          I find it difficult to accept your suggestion that this could be a prelude to elimination of the 3rd class medical. If they were remove conditions left and right it might be but not when they add such unneeded and intrusive requirements.

  16. Eric7 says:

    I had a neighbor who was known as a cranky, dour guy for years. He played a little golf but that was the extent of his physical activity. One day I saw him ride up to his house early in the morning on his bicycle, all decked out in bike racing attire. I chatted with him and he was perky, friendly…..it was a profound change.

    I asked him what got him riding (didn’t mention the personality change). He volunteered that he had been diagnosed with sleep apnea and was now sleeping with the mask. Bottom line was he had not had a decent night’s sleep in years and finally getting good sleep was like a miracle drug to him.

    I’m against this FAA proposal but anyone who has or thinks they many have sleep apnea should see a doctor. It may change their life too.

  17. Jaxs says:

    Those with a BMI over 40 are likely going to die early anyway. Why not they them live a little and fly?

    • Sarah A says:

      When you consider the physical proportions of the average male with a BMI of 40 or above they might just quit flying because it is too hard to get into the typical light aircraft, not to mention what it does to W&B

  18. Rich J says:

    The AME’s may say that the 3rd class medical is useless, but for now, they all are in favor of he money it brings in the door. Three hundred thousand pilots at a hundred bucks a pop is a lot of money that they are reluctant to give up. I see this as just one more justification in the AME’s mind as to why the 3rd class must be continued. Our gov’t is out of control.

  19. Cary Alburn says:

    When Avweb broke this story a few days ago, I sent these comments to them:

    I have several thoughts about this sudden concern:

    1. The NTSB Safety Recommendation was issued August 7, 2009. Why has it
    taken more than 4 years for the FAA to jerk its knee in response?

    2. Nowhere in the NTSB Safety Recommendation is there any reference to
    neck size having anything at all to do with obstructive sleep apnea. A
    quick Google search of half a dozen respected medical sites respecting
    OSA turned up only one mentioning 17″ as the cut-off between an OK-sized
    neck and a too-thick neck. Yet that seems to be excessively significant
    to the FAA medicos.

    3. Has it occurred to anyone at the FAA or elsewhere that there may be a
    significant relationship between the reliance on autopilots and falling
    asleep in the cockpit? Although it’s not impossible, it’s hard as heck
    to fall asleep while hand-flying. We already know from the empirical
    evidence of the last few years that there is obviously a significant loss
    of hand-flying skill due to excessive reliance on autopilots. Perhaps
    all of this is closely related.

    4. With all of the marvelous technology abounding in aviation these
    days, how about just installing a sophisticated tilt switch in headsets
    which causes an alarm to sound if the pilot’s head remains in a tilted
    position more than a few seconds? Most people who fall asleep while
    sitting literally nod off–they don’t keep their heads upright. That
    would directly address the problem of a pilot actually falling asleep,
    rather than this indirect approach of having the pilot jump through a
    whole bunch of expensive medical hoops, which may or may not result in
    keeping him awake while flying.

    5. Combine 3. and 4. As soon as the autopilot is engaged, so is the
    headset tilt switch. Have the system set for 10-12 seconds–plenty long
    enough to do anything that requires a tilted head in almost any cockpit,
    which would minimize false alarms.

    It’s not possible to eliminate human physiology problems that impact the
    safety of flight, but I have serious doubts that this recent concern, if
    followed through with new rules requiring expensive medical testing, even
    addresses those problems to the extent that it will benefit anyone.


    • Alec Beningfield says:

      I’m an ENT doc. A male with a 17″ neck has about a 40% chance of having OSA. Well defined correlation.

  20. DEL says:

    It’s good you fight back, and have a fair chance to win. In other places, such “innovations” go fatalistically unchallenged, like bad weather.

    You know how such things happen: the obstructing agency have a periodical meeting, with the last item on the agenda being “What have we not invented yet?”

  21. Curtis Eggen says:

    Dr. Tilton announced an important new FAA safety policy on a napkin at Bob’s Big Boy in Arlington yesterday: Any pilot applicant whose second toe is as long as, or, (gasp) longer than his/her big toe must undergo the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) administered by a board-certified psychiatrist in order to prove they do not have a personality disorder that could cause them to respond rudely to ATC during a high-stress situation. Once this goal is met, AME’s should expect lesser toe-differentials to be implemented until such time as Dr. Tilton is satisfied that no one will ever be rude to ATC again.

  22. mike thompson says:

    This sounds a lot like the airspace grab/change. The purposed 100 mile ring around large airports drew such harsh response from pilots, the FAA backed off and said, ok we will only do forty miles rings. In fact they only wanted the forty in the first place.
    They can’t justify not giving the 3rd class exemption as proven by the sport pilot statistics, so they are going long and waiting to settle for what they really want to do….Nothing.
    We need real representation.

  23. Stan Loer says:

    I was diagnosed with sleep apnea almost 30 years ago and have used a CPAP mask regularly since. I sleep on my side. Not a problem. The masks and headgear have greatly improved over the years and I don’t find mine uncomfortable at all. My current BMI is in the low 30′s and I’m trying to get it down further. Apnea is a real medical concern with quality of life implications, should not be ignored or minimalized, and is treatable. I did have to initially get my 3rd class medical approved through Ok City but, once evaluated and granted, my local AME has had that continued approval authorization.

    All that said, I am strongly against the current FAA proposal. It seems far too
    arbitrary and unsupportable with sound data. Safety concerns exist, but the contributing factors to fatigue and lack of adequate rest are many and varied. Sleep apnea may just be a convenient target, especially for airline pilots, but it looks like the rest of us will be caught in the web. Medical conditions should not be subject to
    “one size fits all” (pun intended) criteria.

  24. First step if you are overweight is to change your eating habits and stop stuffing your face. I can say this as someone who lost 50 lbs because I wanted to keep flying.

    I was 5’8″ and 222 lbs. I snored so badly that I would keep the folks next door awake when I was in a hotel. I was always tired. I was also 2 lbs overweight for the front seat of my plane if I was buck naked! I discovered just how bad I was when I weighed myself after getting home from a flight where I had to fight to keep the nose from dropping in flight.

    I asked a member of my soaring club who is an MD what do do. His advice “shut your mouth”. I asked the tow pilot, who was 20 years older than me and not obese what was his secret and his response “I eat like a European, not like an American”. You Americans overeat at every meal. The tow pilot was from Sweden.

    I decided that I wanted to fly more than stuff myself, so I changed my habits, including cutting back on wine and beer, cutting out all sugar filled drinks, and learning to pay attention to what I put in my body. Let’s face it we are particular about what we put in our planes. We should at least treat the pilot as good as we treat the plane. Changing habits at first was not easy, but it worked. I now weigh in at 172 lbs, and the plane climbs much better without the extra “ballast”. It is also much easier to get in and out of the ship.

    All said keeping a healthy weight has many things to recommend it. I have more energy, I do not get out of breath walking, my plane fits and flys better!

    My fellow aviators I urge you to become more trim and fit. You will enjoy life and flying more!


    • DEL says:

      All you said is very commendable, of course, but has no particular affinity to flying. I think the extent of public hazard (to “innocent bystanders,” collateral damage) posed by motor vehicle drivers with sleep apnea is quantitatively orders of magnitude greater than that posed by GA pilots with the same condition.

      As to the hazard an obese pilot poses to himself, I happen to believe its prevention is not one of the liberties a citizen waives to the state. The trouble is the FAA has long forgotten who is the boss, and that that boss didn’t hire them to act as a nanny. Luckily for you, Americans, the nannies of some other countries are even bossier.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>