I was walking through all the airplanes at this great little fly-in I attended. There were several classic birds there including a cabin-class Waco, a tricked-out Luscombe 8 and two beautiful Cessna 140s. Admiring the loving restoration, I couldn’t help but notice how tiny the cockpit was and how close the seats were back then. Were people that much smaller five and six decades ago? The answer, I discovered, is you betcha.
Our country’s prosperity, which brought with it a better diet and better health care, has resulted in Americans growing taller and living longer. Twenty years ago, America had the tallest people on the planet. Now, with the rest of the world catching up, folks in the United States are only the ninth tallest folks on earth. Before you chalk up just one more thing America has fallen by the wayside on, we now have another category in which we are number one. Americans are officially now (drumroll, please) the heaviest people on earth.
As aviators, of course, weight is a huge part of our sport. We have to weigh things before we put them in our airplanes, and we have to balance that weight relative to the aircraft’s center of gravity lest we become test pilots.
But what about those people we have to board as well? You can ask them their weight, though that question is not always graciously accepted or answered. I have a bathroom scale that reads about 10 pounds light. I regularly have my passengers step on the scale, and they’re often relieved to see they weigh less than they thought. (Of course I add the 10 pounds back on there when I do the calculations.) But if your experience is anything like mine, except when I’m flying Young Eagles, I rarely board a person who is the typical FAA 170-pounder anymore.
And apparently, it’s not just me. The latest statistics show the average male in this country now weighs 194 lbs and the average woman now weighs 165. How do we fit in a Luscombe?
How did we aviators get so large? Well, part of it is that hundred dollar hamburger thing we do. According to one study, about 70 percent of recreational General Aviation flights are planned around eating.
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