Uh-oh! If you’re an overweight airline pilot, your world just got a bit more complicated. The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has tightened down on the rotund. Apparently, the FAA is after those with an increased likelihood of sleep apnea. They’re starting with fat guys and gals because the propensity for such a sleeping disorder that makes you tired during the day increases when your belt buckle cannot be seen.
The last thing the world needs are pilots that are sleepy enough during the day to doze off behind the wheel. By an early count, about 20% of all pilots are considered obese. I’m surprised the number is that low. Airport food is brutal. Pizza, burgers and candy comprise the primary food groups for anyone who makes their living in the skies.
I want pilots to be healthy and wide awake, but they are using a subjective measurement to identify obese. Those of you who know me would more than likely contend that I am far from obese. Be careful in your assessment. I am obese by BMI (body mass index) standards and the guidelines established by the FAA physicians. My neck is above 17 inches in circumference. That’s one of the determinants to qualify, the other is a BMI of over 40.
If your BMI is over 40, you are a big boy for sure. For comparison purposes, if you’re a man in your 50s with a BMI over 30, you have considerably more body fat than desired. Excellent BMI is somewhere is in the 18-20 range. Nobody has that number to my knowledge.
This whole BMI thing is too subjective for my liking. At 6’ 6” tall, my body weight would have to be somewhere south of 170 to be considered excellent. Can you say Ichabod Crane? OMG. Jack Sprat from the world of limerick comes to mind.
Who else should get tested by FAA standards? Mrs. Johnson’s 4th grade class in Any School, America comes to mind. Truck drivers, professional athletes, Congress, and 95% of the doctors & nurses testing the people for BMI issues. We don’t want any of these groups sleeping on the job either. Look what sleeping on the job did for those in Congress. Their popularity rating is but a pittance compared to their collective BMI.
I’m not on a crusade to attack fat people. Quite frankly, I don’t even like use of the word fat. When one talks about those discriminated against, you can add those who are overweight to the list. It is very sad that the heavier among us are somehow viewed as inferior. Who’s the last kid picked for kickball in Mrs. Johnson’s class?
But, I am for good health and safe travels, in and out of the air. I appreciate the end result: find those with sleep disorders and treat them accordingly. Sleep disorders have more of an impact then falling asleep during the day. Sleep apnea can contribute to heart disease – now we have issues.
While BMI is the means to an end, the number is a rather ridiculous way to get to the final outcome. The neck measurement is also ambiguous. If you want to get closer to the problem, take a peek at the air passage inside the neck, if it is narrow, we’re one step closer to a determination. Ask the sleeping partner if the night is filled with snoring. If so, you just took another step toward your diagnosis. A night filled with lots of noise points to the prospect that sleep apnea does exist.
Getting checked is a good thing. Targeting fat guys with big necks might be falling short of finding everyone who has the problem.