Flying and the Unfortunate Comeuppance

Most pilots continue to learn about flying and being prepared, but, no matter how many hours we fly, some things will always turn your stomach. The best approach I’ve learned is to expect the unexpected. Obviously, this is easier said than done and involves acute vigilance to maintain aircraft safety and integrity, and more than a little attention to another real threat to flight safety — your passengers…

Yes, your kind and willing passengers can really mess things up for you in a truly broad spectrum of ways, but this week we focus on just one. Nausea can result in a number of colorful experiences of its own: Some passengers will turn surprisingly distracting shades of green, while others can grace your cabin with ‘the great Technicolor yawn.’ Personally, I’ve found that while green skin color *is* alarming, having a passenger toss their cookies into your cabin is a flying experience of rare comparison.

Defense: It is surprisingly easy to be ready for a passenger with an upset stomach. While not the most sympathetic approach, adding such simple and lightweight materials as a few Sic-Sacs or several large Ziplock ™ type bags to your seat pouches (within easy reach) can give your passengers someplace safe to, well, throw up.

If any of your passengers even hint that they feel hot or sick, hand them a bag. Have them *open* the bag up and have it ready — nothing works worse than a closed bag when the worst ‘comes up.’ Now, and this is important: If the worst does happen and your passenger throws up into the bag … SEAL THE BAG. Then, get it out of sight. I carry an opaque department store bag to compliment the Ziplocks ™ for just such unexpected events.

Endgame Strategy: If your passenger does not share their discomfort until they lose control, all is not lost, but prompt action must be taken to save the aircraft from damage. Quickly get a bag to the offender (it would be a mistake for the islanders to consider the volcano ‘dormant’ so soon after an eruption) and get the aircraft on the ground. Then, clean it up … oh, and console your friend.

INSIDE INFORMATION: The human stomach uses acid to break down food into usable enzymes and proteins for the body and stomach acid will initiate corrosion if it reaches the aluminum airframe. Remember, even if you clean the solid contents up, you will have to pull up all soaked fabrics, including the carpet, padding, seating, and even the floorboards, and have them carefully cleaned as soon as possible. Long-term contact of several days to a week can cause significant damage … not that you could stand the smell.

Editor’s Note:This article originally ran when iPilot was just a baby. Be sure to check the Insider Series Archive for more great stories you may have missed.