Plane & Pilot
Saturday, May 1, 2004

Flying Is Exercise

Being a hangar potato is actually hard work! No, really!

When I preflight the airplane, each lap around it is almost exactly 65 feet. That’s another 24 miles logged over the life of that engine. Okay, so I’m not exactly breaking a sweat during pre-flight, but at least I’m standing up and moving, and that’s exercise in my book.

And then there’s pushing the airplane out. This should count as double exercise because I’m pushing and pulling a 1,000-pound load every foot of the way. I’m working out with a bi-winged barbell (or what I sometimes call a bi-bell). It’s 70 feet each way for—ka-ching—another 53 miles in my exercise log. And then we get to the really big numbers.

By the time I arrive at the airport, I’ve generally been in the office at least four hours. That’s two cups of tea, two Diet Dr Peppers plus a caffeine-free Diet Coke on the way to the airport. With each step, I hear a sloshing sound from somewhere deep inside of me. This results in preflight trips to the pee-atorium at the far end of the hangar complex, which is 520 feet each way. Then we seldom taxi up after a flight when I don’t say to the student, “Tell the fuel guy I need six gallons,” and I waddle another 520 feet in that peculiar, and totally identifiable, crab-like shuffle we all adapt when we’re trying to hurry with a full bladder. Multiply that by the number of flights and, are you ready for this, I’ve logged 787 miles of going back and forth to the head. I guess that falls into the category of “urinary exercise.”

On top of all of this is the physical exercise I get while I’m in the cockpit, like all of the butt-squinches I do as I suck up the seat covers while trying to keep my hands off the controls as a student leads us toward certain doom. Nor does it count the getting into and out of the cockpit (a climb and descent of approximately 12,000 feet).

Who says I’m not exercising? Just thinking about it tires me out. And speaking of which, that calls for another trip to the fridge.

Budd Davisson is an accomplished aviation writer and photographer, CFII & A, aircraft owner and builder. He has authored two books and lectured at the Smithsonian and NASA’s Langley Research Center. Check out his Website at


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