Fit 4Flight got its start when our president noticed a trend in pilots. He saw this development already set in in himself. He had seen his follow pilot friends who were way too far down this road. The fact is that we have long, mentally demanding days. We, as pilots, mostly do not handle ourselves in manner to ensure good eating habits and healthy levels of physical activity.
We have heard it all. “My day is so long and demanding that I do not have time to eat.” “I do not want exercise at the end of my duty day. It gets me too worked up. Then I cannot sleep and I do not want to be fatigued for my next duty day.” “I am mentally exhausted at the end of my duty day and I do not have the energy for physical activity.” The list can obviously go on and on for nautical miles.
Here is what happened to Fit 4 Flight’s president, Eric Nonamaker. He was an extremely active person and loved being in the great outdoors. Eric ran cross country and track in high school, was in the military for 6 years, was an avid cyclist putting 200 plus miles a week on the pavement, and was in to hiking with a 75 pound backpack with his Norwegian Elkhound 5 miles a day. Along with all this activity he even did weight training for 20 minutes three times a week.
In his mid-twenties he was in his prime when he started pilot training. Of course Eric continued all these great activities during his flight training. Upon earning his FAA certified flight instructor certificate he was continuing on as always and working as an airport manager in the mid-Atlantic. This is when the change started to slowly start adding extra drag to his body. Before that change he was a healthy 6 feet, 2 inches and 175 pounds.
He had not noticed much as of yet. Eric had found an old Army buddy who had the same dream of becoming a pilot as well when they both got out. He thought to himself, “Wow, that guy has really put on quite a few pounds.” His friend had paid his dues and was now flying Lears and getting ready to move up to the heavy world. At this point Eric did not think too much of it. He had not been around the industry enough to really take notice to what happens to so many pilots.
Then it slowly started to sink in. One second class medical after he noticed that the weight was slowly increasing. It was when the body weight reached 190 pounds that he started to see the trend. Unfortunately it did not stop there.
What had happened was with instructing he had little to no time between flights for meals. The gaps in his day to cycle, run, and hike were almost all gone. At least what was free time in his mind. Flight instructors put in a lot of time at the office to build the hours so that their paychecks my life possible.
At the end of his day student pilots had drained his brain which caused him to be mentally exhausted. When he finally got home he was tired and starving. A profession that requires a medical exam every six to twelve months, this is indeed a dangerous combination for healthy living.
Here is where Fit 4 Flight gets started. Eric had been fluctuating between 200 to 210 pounds for the past five years. He was in good health with blood pressure, heart rate, vision, etc. but he was definitely flirting with being too overweight. His eating and activity patterns had gone way below the minimums that he liked to hold.
He decided while waiting for a flight at the DFW airport on a personal trip he had seen an overload of four stripers grabbing fast food. He also noticed on this layover that they had an excess of overload baggage pushing the limits on shirt buttons and belt buckles. This sparked a movement in his head that has led to Fit 4 Flight.
Eric has vowed that with his lifestyle in aviation it is time for him to make some changes. He is starting out on this date at 205 pounds and getting back to where he should be. He is making time to get his activity levels back up before and after each duty day. Even on the long trips and ensuring that he is including in his pre-flight planning a healthy intake of foods to match his physical activity level and with ones which enrich brain power.
There are no more excuses for any of us. Challenge yourself to uphold the image and standards of a professional pilot. To be cliché, we most motivate our minds and our bodies will follow. Without this we will continue to fly our duty day and do nothing to ourselves.
Join us in our journey to educate pilots on making better choices for health in the lifestyle we have chosen to love. Fit 4 Flight is growing in to a non-profit organization dedicated to educating those in aviation to the pitfalls we face. In the future we will have our website up, information and tips from pilots and doctors, the ability for you to pledge to stay fit for flight and share your stories, apparel, fitness events, and scholarship opportunities.
Thanks for reading and fly safe!