Friday, June 12, 2009

Inflight Meals

The days are starting to blend together as I fly, sleep and eat. I don't have access to a vehicle and I don't want to be twenty minutes walk across town when the customer calls, so most of my meals are either from the Boston Pizza in the hotel parking lot or consist of what I can prepare with a fridge and a microwave in my room. To tell the truth, I'm typically eating two meals a day: one around noon, at Boston Pizza (the Thai chicken wrap is pretty good, and they have lots of pastas), and one consisting of airborne snacks, spread out over the seven hour flight.

It's all focused, hands on flying. There is very little time during a flight that I am not concentrating on maintaining precise parameters. For example, if I am two degrees off my proper heading for ten seconds, someone will be yelling at me, because two degrees off for twenty seconds will necessitate doing the work over again. At first I could barely breathe while working but of course over seven hours I now eat, drink, take my sunglasses on and off, skip the songs I don't feel like listening to on the iPod nano, check my blood oxygen, adjust the heater, take snapshots for the blog, switch fuel tanks, monitor engine parameters, make radio calls, look for traffic, try to rearrange the cushions to make my seat more comfortable, write notes on things I have to get maintenance to fix, open the air vents, and speculate on the weather. Crossword puzzles I reserve for when I'm a passenger.

My favourite onboard snack is apples. They don't need peeling or unwrapping, don't squish, last well without refrigeration, quench my thirst without filling my bladder and I can hold one in my teeth or balance it on my lap if I need hands or tongue for work mid-snack. Dried fruit is tasty, but you need to drink water anyway to digest it, so that's two operations instead of one. My other inflight meal staple is Arrowroot biscuits. They're in the cookie aisle of the grocery store in Canada and in the baby food section in the US (I learned the last after a week or so of disappointed failure to find them, fearing they were a Canadian product that was not exported to the States). It turns out that cookies that are well-formulated for babies are well-formulated for pilots, too. They contain very little sugar or salt, so that I don't need to drink a lot of water to digest them They are mushy rather than crumbly in my mouth, and they are small and thin, so I can put a whole one in my mouth and enjoy it slowly without choking on crumbs.

I always have energy bars in my flight bag, because they last a long time and give me a lot of calories for a little weight and convenient package. I prefer the Luna bars, Lemon flavour. I like chocolate a lot, but I don't eat chocolate flavoured energy bars. I never have a desire for them. I also liked the old Power Bars in the green wrappers. I think they were nominally apple cinnamon. Power Bars never taste like anything, but the green ones were kind of crunchy and i liked the texture. The Luna bars are crunchy like that, too. Kind of the texture of a rice krispie treat that is just loaded with marshmallows, but not sticky or sweet. I'm not sure why. I guess when my body asks for food and I give it chocolate it is a little confused.

Sometimes I do bring chocolate or candy. Once when I couldn't find Arrowroots I had gluten-free animal crackers, which was fun, especially when I said "ooh, a hippopotamus" and had the mission specialist thinking I'd seem one out the window. In Arizona. I also might have grapes, beef jerky, nuts, or a banana. Bananas are a pain because they get squished so easily and the peel is messy.

Judging from the cockpit debris, other company pilots eat Froot Loops cereal, pistachio nuts, and Smarties (the Canadian kind that are like M&Ms, not the American kind in a twisted roll). I've heard a story of a pilot who used to set the autopilot and make himself a huge bucket of Caesar salad (apparently it used to be called Aviator's Salad, so there you go). He'd eat that followed by a whole roast chicken, and I can't remember what his starch component supposedly was. I imagine the story has grown a little with the telling.

19 comments:

mb said...

Hi - are you gluten free?

Aviatrix said...

Am I gluten free? I have no idea. Do people contain gluten?

I eat gluten. Heck, I eat raw bread dough. It would be a whole 'nother story trying to live in the north if I were restricted to gluten-free carbohydrates. A friend and I one hada running joke about a "vegan cargo pilot." We didn't think it could be done.

dpierce said...

I like carrots. And trail mix that you can pour into your mouth from a partially open zip-lock bag. I wish there was a one-handed way to eat salad. There are salad wraps, of course, but even those are messy.

Onigiri (triangles of Japanese sticky rice stuffed with the yummy filling of your choice) are great one-handed food when you need carbs.

Do people contain gluten? ...

Only if they've eaten some gluten. I would think those on a gluten free diet would be prohibited from eating other people anyway. Might depend on the locale.

Aviatrix said...

It's not so much the eating as the preserving. A salad prepared the night before, then taken out of the fridge and left in a flight bag for six hours isn't going to be pleasant.

Geekzilla said...

This blog entry reminds me of my younger days when I was heavily into bicycling. After an hour or so in the saddle, the body starts to run out of glycogen so it needs to be replenished through food and drink. Some of the foods I used were PowerBars, fig newtons, cereal bars, bananas, and Gatorade. I always found it a challenge to try to choke down solid food while racing down the road with my heart trying to pound itself out of my chest. It was always a sugary sticky sweaty mess, too.

Sir Lukenwolf said...

Yeah, some of those cyclists power bars might do for a good inflight meal. It's not really a 3 stage menu, but it gets you refuelled quite good.
Maybe Lance Armstrong can make a living on selling that stuff to long working pilots once he gets off the bike again :-)

Aviatrix said...

A Power Bar requires a lot of water to digest. On the bike, someone hands you a new waterbottle at a checkpoint, and the used water just goes the same place the sweat running down your body goes. In an airplane, it's not that simple.

So no Power Bars.

Sir Lukenwolf said...

That makes sense. I'd have a hard time planning meals with minimum water requirements, but as it is sort of difficult to go to the can at FL180 or whatever it is you roam the skies at, it makes sense.

Anonymous said...

My guess is, with such tight flight parameters, a mission specialist on board, flying over oil country, she just returned from the U.S. oil country, checking her blood/O (she is at the upper limits of operating without O), she is looking for oil with a plane stable enough to allow precise equipment to operate, not to mention the room for the equipment. It's at least a twin. Has good range/endurance. Could be a early model King Air. I am looking for more clues Trxie!

LT

Traytable said...

Your food requirements sound v similar to mine when I first started flying- albeit in the cabin end. When I progressed to aircraft with -oh joy- ovens & a lav... then the feast began!!! =D

I know crew who cook an entire roast in the back galley of a Dash 8!

Anonymous said...

so...I can eat people and still maintain my gluten free diet...so long as they haven't eaten gluten? whew, I was concerned for a second. :)

Sarah said...

Yes, anonymous, and that would make you a "humanitarian".

A Squared said...

@ LT,

Aside from the fact that she frequently mentions magnetos and cylinders, and spends as much time in areas that are not oil country, I'm sure you have it nailed right down.

Sir Lukenwolf said...

I don't see the point in guessing, what she's flying or where or for whom. She's trying to keep the blog resonably anonymous for a reason and I think it'd be prudent to respect that :-)

nec Timide said...

@LT, in addition to what A squared said, blood O2 is important to a night VFR pilot in the wild. Eyes are very sensitive to oxygen levels. One of the first things to go is colour sensitivity, in particular the ability to see red. The colour used to mark many obstructions. This can happen as low as around 4-5 thousand feet. Could be vital if the terrain gets higher than 2500-3000 feet. Though from reading Aviatrix for a while I know she is far more fit than the average North American.

Anoynmous said...

From walking with her on occasion (and slowing her down despite pushing my pace), I can confirm her fitness. It's not just auctorial license.

Aviatrix, I am thoroughly impressed (though not surprised at all) at how much thought you've put into the digestibility of your meals.

Aviatrix said...

The thought goes not so much into the digestibility of the meal as the comfort of my bowels and bladder with three hours to go before landing.

I'm rather ashamed to have received this comment while sitting at my computer eating cheap jelly beans out of a bag. 8)

Geekzilla said...

It must be the gluten.

zb said...

Well, I'm sure you know this scientific diagram already, because you pointed to another comic at the site in your blog anyway a while ago, but the link just really belongs here...