Eat, drink, fly

Eat, drink, fly

I’m not a big breakfast person. When my wife is not home, I often don’t even have coffee before I leave for work. On days like this I usually have breakfast at work around 11 with the second or third cup of coffee.

When I fly, I’m usually in the air by 11 am. On these days I have to eat strategically so that I don’t have low blood sugar when I should be concentrated. So I set my alarm clock a bit earlier and eat a real breakfast with little appetite.

To add insult to injury, the coffee maker will stay cold on these mornings. I am a heavy coffee drinker. I usually start the day with black coffee and keep going strong until the last steaming cup after dinner. On flying days however, I have to factor in the availability of toilets aboard the air plane – or the lack thereof. And for this calculation, the amount of coffee I  start my day with does make a difference. Sad but true.

The guys in the flight school joke about a case of beer as the universal currency for making up for mistakes. Running late? No problem, it will cost you a crate of beer! Hard landing? Nothing a crate of beer can’t fix! In real life however, this is nothing more than a line of jokes. Alcohol is dealt with very responsibly amongst the aviators I have met so far.

“24 hours from bottle to throttle”

This catchy rule is what I have learned as the code of honour. It refers more to a state of mind then to a glass of beer with dinner the day before a flight. It means that a pilot should be rested, focused and at the peak of his or her mental capacity during a flight. Very much the way one does not feel, 24 hours after attending your best friends stag party for example.

I was still surprised when I learned that the official FAA ruling is “only” 8 hours between consuming alcoholic beverages and operating a commercial air plane. The maximum allowed blood alcohol is 0.04 % (0.4 promille). This seems like a lot to me.

Flying is all new and exciting for me. It requires my full attention. It is hard for me to picture how the routine of a commercial pilot with thousands of hours must be like. But I know how I feel at my boring desk job when I come to work on the day after a big night out. Usually these are not the most efficient work days.

So for now I will stick with my 24 hours. It helps me prepare for the flight mentally. I will see how it goes once I’m in the 3 or 4 digits with my flight hours. Right now I’m still in the low 2 digits and I guess it is okay to still focus on every aspect of flying very much!

To be continued…


(Originally posted on March 9, 2011 by tilbo at

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