Some people are surprised when they learn that pilots have to give quite a lot of thought to their food and drink during flights. Plenty of airlines have their own specific policies regarding what pilots can and cannot do, and these policies may well include some guidance on food and drink.
So, are there any foods and drinks that are prohibited? While some will seem obvious, others that are on this list might actually surprise you.
Eating The Same Meal
There are two pilots in the cockpit for the majority of flights. This is sometimes to share the workload, but also to ensure that if anything happens to one pilot, there is someone else there who can fly the plane to safety.
That’s why eating the same meal for the pilots is not necessarily allowed. It might be a case of personal choice, or some airlines have the policy of getting the pilots to eat something different. This is to mitigate against the very rare risk that one of the meals is poisoned or otherwise makes them unwell.
It should be said that this doesn’t seem to be enforced in all situations or by every airline, so some companies will have a different outlook. The risks are extremely low, of course, but when it comes to piloting a plane, you can’t be too careful.
Most of us need coffee to get through our day at work, right? While it is normal for the majority to bring a special thermo coffee cup filled with fresh and hot coffee and drink it while we are traveling to the workplace, or in there as many time as we need, the EU Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) regulations now state that A350 airliner pilots should stop drinking coffee in the cockpits after some high-profile spillages. Despite warnings, some pilots were still putting their coffees in places where they could potentially spill on sensitive equipment.
For some pilots, the days of drinking coffee at the console are long gone, but they may still be able to drink it on breaks for the pickup they might need. The idea of a working day without coffee might be horrifying for some people, but this is more about protecting all that vital equipment.
You may have thought that with coffee being discouraged, this was all about caffeine. Well, caffeine plays a part in this, however, it has been shown in some research that low-dose caffeine can help pilots. Energy drinks do not tend to be low-dose, however
The US Navy has generally made the decision that pilots should stay away due to the fact that energy drinks can be harmful. They can cause heart palpitations and other health risks, and there is a chance of a reaction occurring.
Energy drink policies will vary from one company and airline to another, but a lot of the very best pilots will move away from them as they become more health-conscious and understand the risks involved. Big spikes and crashes caused by the high dose of caffeine are not ideal for such a high-pressure job.
Of course, some energy drinks are better than others when it comes to what is inside them, but it makes sense for pilots to think carefully about what they’re drinking and whether it will cause a ‘crash’.
This is an obvious one, but it is still worth discussing. There have even been high-profile examples of pilots being found with alcohol in their system after an accident or as a part of investigations.
It stands to reason, you can’t drive your car when you’ve had alcohol to drink, so taking charge of a plane with hundreds of passengers (or any number of passengers) is definitely not something that can be tolerated. If pilots are found to be over alcohol limits set by law then they could face criminal charges, just like driving under the influence.
What Do Pilots Tend to Eat and Drink?
Of course, other than the obvious issues around drinking alcohol, a lot of the restrictions come down to airlines and aviation authorities to decide.
Not all airlines actually provide food for their pilots, leaving them to bring food onboard or to find food and drink when they’ve stopped in-between flights. The idea of a pilot taking a packed lunch is quite unusual, but there’s every chance that they do.
On top of that, pilots will often take food that can be quickly eaten to keep the energy-levels high. A lot of pilots swear by protein bars, giving plenty of fuel for their engines (pun intended) and carrying them through the shifts.
Pilots should also usually stay away from any food they know disagrees with them to avoid having to make too many bathroom breaks while they are flying.
The restrictions on most food and drink are not overly strict, and there may be suggestions and guidelines put in place by airlines rather than strict and undeniable rules. Pilots tend to get in their routines when it comes to food and drink, and may well take their own onto the flights to avoid any confusion about what is allowed. They’ll often discuss with their co-pilot whether they are going to choose different meals to get rid of risks, too.
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