The Flight of The Fatass.
Couldn’t come at a worse time, when each cent spent on fuel strains the budget of every major airline. The fact is, a direct operating cost airlines cannot avoid is fuel usage, which is directly linked to the aircraft’s gross weight. Suddenly, there’s this:
That’s right: double-fudge brownie sundaes–in flight. Which brings us back to the jet’s take-off and climb gross weight. Seriously gross, in some cases.
Back in my Diesel-10 days, I flew with a giant of a captain who shall remain nameless but his initials are Big John. He must have tipped the scales close to three hundred pounds, and I admit, as a First Officer doing the flight control check, I’d purposely pull the yoke back far enough to jiggle his big gut (he’d say, “Whatcha tryin’ to do, boy, loop it?”) hanging over his lap belt.
The big mystery early in the month we flew together was why did Big John excuse himself from the cockpit at the top of descent point, for at least fifteen minutes? That’s right before we get really busy with descent and approach.
Mystery solved on our first layover: the “galley wench” (that’s the flight attendant who served below decks in the DC-10 lower lobe galley) said he was downstairs with her, hoovering any uneaten food from passenger meals that were left over.
Maybe that comes from the grand tradition of fat sea captains who had to keep themselves well-marbled to survive months bobbing around on a hostile ocean. You never know when you’re going to have to spend two seasons and an eternity of reruns on an uncharted desert isle.
You never know just how long a three hour tour is going to be, right? We were doing a lot of trans-oceanic stuff in the ten, so maybe John was planning to be the only guy surviving in a life raft.
Regardless, Big John was just one of a growing number–literally growing–pilots who over the span of a career, drove up the fuel burn of the airline as his career dragged on.
Why? Go back to the top of the page and face the brownie sundae–my weakness. Okay, I’ll come clean: I’m six feet tall and weight 182 pounds (today anyway), have finished nine of the 26.2 mile marathons, blah, blah, blah. Point is, I do take part in the aerial hog call pretty regularly. A tour, you say? You’d like a tour? Prepare yourself.
First, there’s the big guns that announce themselves with a “ding” on the flight interphone: “Hey, we’ve got [insert uber-caloric dessert here] in back if you all want some.” Or, it just comes already on your crew meal. Either way, there’s this:
A dense chocolate cake-like pie. Sure, just eat a bite or two, right? You’ll run it off on the layover, right (in Toronto in January? YOU’RE LYING)? You missed lunch too, see, and this is okay therefore, mangia, right?.
Then there’s this:
Coming out of several Florida airline catering kitchens–it’s really decent Key Lime pie. Somebody actually recognized that Key Lime’s are just like any other limes–added for the citrus flavor for the pie, not the color–and it looks and tastes authentic. Probably about 800 calories, too.
I really like this meringue-ish type lemon pie too:
It’s kind of densely creamy with just the right amount of tartness. And another 900 calories, probably. Sometimes the dessert just looks so innocent sitting there on your tray, small and innocuous, looking up, suggesting hey–eat me.
But word gets out when the inflight menu changes: hey–the cheese cake’s back. Burp. And sure, the salad’s always a sensible choice . . .
. . . as long as you don’t chase down it with another fat bomb:
I’m less vulnerable to the cake, which often is dry enough to suck all of the moisture out of your already parched (from the 2% cabin humidity) body.
That and the hermetically sealed bread item could absorb a fuel spill of considerable magnitude. So I find those non-confectionary things easy to avoid. But then there’s the catering out of Mexico:
Always some type of pastry dessert that face it–you’re going to try some of it. And when you do, you’re stuffing all 900 calories into your pie hole.
So, you might well ask, why not just bring your own food? Right? Yeah, like that’s any better, like anyone could be trusted to manage that. Here’s just a couple of bad choices in that regard.
This is The World’s Most Dangerous Pastrami, slapped together lovingly (“Ey–we don’t got all day here, whaddya want?“) in the employee deli in La Garbage Airport, Flushing (is it just me or are these terms all appropriately suggestive?) New York.
Or The Long Haul Meathead Sandwich, good for at least two thousand miles:
But tofu’s healthy, right? Shut up:
Here’s the Blow Your Head Off spicy tofu, an O’Hare exclusive I can’t resist. The heartburn alone will keep you awake for at least a thousand miles, which is kind of the point.
Regardless of whether you bring your own food, the galley ovens are just on the other side of the cockpit door. When the aroma of freshly baked cookies finds it’s way forward, who are you kidding?
You’re eating them. yes, you can defend yourself from any smells . . .
But you’re not gonna avoid cookies, are you? And never mind in flight, what about the junk you bump into hanging out before the flight? Like the old faves stationed around the nation, waiting:
It’s the best breakfast burrito in the nation, waiting for you at a little shop in the Albuquerque airport. Perfect salsa, will light your hair on fire. And in the Portland Airport, “Good Dog Bad Dog,” with sausages you are going to eat no matter what.
Need a closer look? There’s a video look at “Good Dog-Bad Dog” on the bottom of this page. Go there, try one–you’ll be hooked, too. And speaking of dogs, back to basics in the Oklahoma City Airport–Sonic, headquartered in OKC, offers you the essential foot-long chili-cheese-onion dog right across from the gate for your convenience:
This is all leading to a very scary conclusion, fellow fliers: we are destroying the ozone needlessly because of the bulk–literally, the bulk–of those who must be hefted off the ground and into the stratosphere with the fossil fuel burn increase required to haul their fat asses airborne.
Don’t get too smug, either, if you’re not a big butt pilot–we’re only two of 165 butts on my airplane. Yeah, we notice–
The suitcase will fit under the seat–but what about fitting in the seat? Anyway, that’s what’s driving up fuel costs, along with the constant mayhem in the middle east, hurricane rumors near the Gulf, a flu outbreak at a refinery in Jersey–whatever. Those are things Al Gore says we can’t control. Eating in flight is quite another thing.
But actually, it doesn’t look like Big Al’s skipping any meals either. So let’s just forget it–this is The Land of Plenty, to fly across it is going to take plenty of fuel because of all of the plentious butts on board.
Flying is a tough business, in my experience. You deserve a trip to “Good Dog–Bad Dog” in order for fortify yourself for the journey. So click on the video below and enjoy an up close and personal visit to the place.
Me, I’m heading out for yet another long run. I’m personally too cowardly to follow in Big John’s gigantic footsteps–his heart exploded on a layover and he keeled over dead, face down in his angel hair Carabonara.