Fit to fly
We all know that lovely feeling–and it never gets old, unlike us. You wake up and peer out the window, and the blue sky beckons. For those of us fortunate to live in the mid-Atlantic, the flying conditions at this time of the year could not be better, cool days with dense air. We check the weather, good to go. We check the notams and so on—no problem. Then we head to the airport to check the airplane. But what about ensuring we are fit to fly?
As pilots we are programmed to utilize checklists and know how to adhere to those protocols that keep us safe. We go through appropriate steps to prepare the aircraft for flight. But what of the steps to ensure we are ready for flight? For instance, we need to make sure we are warming our bodies up just as we warm our engine before taxi and takeoff.
First, we should add ourselves to that preflight checklist: Are we well rested? Any alcohol, medications, or stress that might interfere with a safe flight? I am sure some of you use the acronym IM SAFE (illness, medications, stress, alcohol, fatigue, emotion), and this is certainly a good tool. But checking items is one thing—taking preventive action is another.
For instance, think about what you eat before embarking on a flight. Include sufficient energy-producing foods that will tide you through the journey, but beware of gas–producing foods that might affect the pleasant atmosphere in the aircraft at altitude, if you know what I mean. Ensuring proper hydration is also critical. Bear in mind that at high altitude, the air is dry. If you use supplemental oxygen, the body will lose a lot of water. Of course, if you drink a lot you may need to avail yourself of the “facilities,” which in most general aviaton aircraft consists of a small red bottle. This needs special consideration for those pilots with high blood pressure who may be on diuretic medications–the adjustment to the potassium in your body will have an impact on where all that water you are drinking ends up—and I am not referring to embarrassing spills!
Flying a low-wing aircraft requires one to clamber around the hangar floor, so make sure you perform some stretches before checking under the wings so that you don’t hear an expensive noise coming from your back!
In the aircraft, consider doing foot rotations and isometric exercises to keep the blood flowing and limit the chance for potentially fatal deep vein thrombosis. A mini-aspirin taken daily together with support stockings should be considered, but like all such advice, please consult with your personal physician before making any adjustments to your daily regime.
When you arrive at your destination, take time to stretch before clambering out of the cockpit—this also will help prevent pulled muscles.
We all know how hard it is to stay on a healthy diet and exercise program when traveling on business, but simple steps such as choosing a hotel with a work-out facility, going for a walk in the morning, or doing some exercises in your hotel room can keep that most complex and valuable piece of flight equipment humming along until the next scheduled TBO!
Keep flying well!
June 16, 2010