Reduce YOUR useless load

We probably all know someone who has spent great amounts of money in efforts to increase the useful load of their plane. Maybe that someone is you. That isn’t what this article is about. This is about reducing your personal useless load. I would wager a bet that many of…
Written by
Richard Brown
Published on
1 Nov 2023
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The prospective buyer asks, “What’s the useful load?” Or maybe it is one owner asking another, “What’s your useful load?” Just last week I was talking with a hangar neighbor and the topic of useful load came up.

“Mooney’s have such a low useful load,” is something I have heard more than once. Compared to some other manufacturers that is true, but I can also fly the same distance on less fuel, so I don’t have to tanker as much to get to my destination.

Never Weigh Your Plane?

Here’s another one that I have heard a lot. “Never weigh your plane, you’ll lose useful load.” The first time I heard that I thought, “What a ridiculous thing, don’t you want to know exactly what your plane really weighs, not just what it says in the logbooks?” You compute the weight and balance for the flight based on the numbers in your logbooks, but when you start rolling down the runway, the laws of physics don’t care what it says in the logbooks. Almost 7 years of ownership later, I still think not weighing the plane to keep from losing useful load is ridiculous. I also realize I may get some hate mail over that statement.

Yes, I’ve heard the arguments about inaccurate scales, or people not following the proper procedure. My answer is to make sure the scales have recently been calibrated and follow the procedure with exactness. I have had my plane weighed once, and I did lose a little useful load in the logbook. (I didn’t really lose any, that number only existed in the logbook.) I will have it weighed again after I have the new panel cut and installed, mainly because it was painted and there was bodywork done. I know I’m going to lose more useful load and I’m okay with it, I want the real numbers.

What about YOUR useless load?

We probably all know someone who has spent great amounts of money in efforts to increase the useful load of their plane. Maybe that someone is you. That isn’t what this article is about. This is about reducing your personal useless load. When was the last time you got on the scale? Were you happy with the number you saw? Did you question the accuracy of the scale? I would wager a bet that many of us are walking around with an extra 10, 30, maybe even 50 or 60 extra pounds of useless load.

I’ll admit, if you happen to land off airport and it takes 2-3 weeks for rescue crews to get to you and all you have is a source of fresh water, then those would be useful pounds. But aside from that, they are useless.

Can you realistically increase the useful load of your plane by 30-40 pounds? Let’s say you spent a bunch of money, went all glass, and removed all those old heavy instruments, maybe pulled out a vacuum system, maybe you put in a lightweight starter and a lighter prop. Is any of that going to improve your quality of life? Are you going to have more energy? Will you be able to keep up with your kids or grandkids better? I believe the resounding answer is “No!”

But if you reduce your useless load, the answer to those questions is, “Yes!” I know this for a fact. Why? Because I did just that, and at 51 I am in better shape than I was at 41. I’ve reduced my useless load since I started flying a little over seven years ago by 30 pounds and have about 5-6 more to go to get where I want to be.

About 6 years and 30 pounds difference

And, for every pound of your personal useless load that you reduce, that’s an extra pound of something else you can carry in the plane. It’s a win-win.

Is there a secret?

What is the secret to reducing your useless load? I hate to say it, but there is no silver bullet to speak of, and no magic trendy diet that is going to make it happen. A few years ago a good friend gave me a book titled Younger Next Year and it changed my thought process. The premise of the book is simple. You can’t stop the aging process, but you can slow it down, reducing many of the typical problems of aging. You can live an active life into your 80’s and beyond. If you are currently out of shape, by getting in shape you could even roll the clock back a few years.

There are seven rules in Younger Next Year, but it mainly comes down to exercising six days a week, don’t eat junk food and crap, and connect with others. Exercise, I can do that. Don’t eat crap food? Well, I like ice cream and although the authors say French fries are of the devil, they sure do taste good. Connect with others? As an introvert, that one has taken some effort taking me out of my comfort zone.

On ski trips to Wolf Creek, just up the mountain from our place in Pagosa Springs, CO I often share the lift with guys well past 70 years old that look great! A couple years ago I was skiing with a friend who introduced me to some other friends of his. One of them was Steve, who is into his mid 60’s. Steve knows the mountain like the back of his hand, and I spent the rest of the day trying to keep up with him as he led us through steep powder runs through the trees. He made it seem effortless as we went down the black diamond and double black runs. At the bottom, getting on the lift, I would be breathing hard and yet Steve looked like he had just cruised down a green run.

ABH and SBH

I mentioned there are no magic diets, but I did coin two different diets that my wife laughs about. In the flying world we love our acronyms. So, the diets I subscribe to are the ABH and SBH diets. What do they stand for? “Always Be Hungry” and “Sometimes Be Hungry.”

**DISCLAIMER I am not a dietician, nor a doctor, nor a nutritionist, and it has been a number of years since I have stayed at a holiday Inn.**

Here’s the hard truth. Weight loss or gain comes down to calories. If you are consuming more calories than you burn you will gain weight. If you burn more calories than you consume you will lose weight. It really is that simple. All the fad diets are just different ways to get to a calorie deficit. Yes, certain foods can mess with your insulin levels, but weight loss still comes down to calories.

About 3,500 surplus calories equal a pound. That means that if you have a calorie deficit of 500 calories a day, you will lose about a pound a week. This is where the ABH and SBH come into play. The body will give you queues about what it needs. If you are always hungry, there is a good chance you are running a calorie deficit. If you are sometimes hungry, then you are likely sometimes running a deficit. The weeks I am ABH I lose about a pound a week. If I am only SBH, it is around a half pound a week.

How do you make sure you are in a calorie deficit? The only way I know is to count your calories. There are lots of different apps for your phone that will count calories. I like using My Fitness Pal, mostly because it syncs up with the Garmin app on my phone which also talks to my Garmin watch. What app you use isn’t as important as just picking one and using it.

You must put in EVERYTHING that you eat and be honest about what you record. This might mean measuring out your servings. My wife used to laugh, but I think now she just silently shakes her head as I count out the 31 Frosted Mini Wheats that I eat for breakfast each morning. You will be surprised at how many calories you are consuming. Did you know that 16 Wheat Thins are 140 calories, or 16 Mike and Ike candies are 110 calories? Yes, my mind is full of random mostly useless facts.

I do count the calories Monday through Friday, but on the weekends, I eat what I want.

Yep! Exercise

The second biggest part of the equation is exercise. In addition to improving your cardiovascular and muscle help, it burns calories, which means you can eat more… 😊 What kind of exercise you do and when you do it is up to you. But find something you enjoy and can do consistently.

 For me, a gym just doesn’t work. I don’t have the extra time to go to a gym, and I don’t really like them either. About four years ago we bought an exercise bike. I didn’t want to spend too much because I wanted to be sure I was going to use it for more than hanging clothes on. After riding it every day, Monday-Friday for a couple years, I decided I was committed and sprung for a more expensive bike. We now have a NordicTrack S22i and I really enjoy the iFit workouts riding all over the world. So far in Mid-October 2023, my year to date numbers on the bike are 281:08:25 total time, 4,961.57 miles, estimated calorie burn of 253,618 (that’s a lot of extra ice cream to eat), and 355,734 feet of elevation gain.

The Golden Hour

My alarm goes off at 4:40am weekdays and I spend an hour on the bike, followed by a kettlebell workout, and finish it up with a set of 80 and another set of 30 pushups. Not bad for a 51-year-old. When I started riding the bike it was a challenge to ride for 30 minutes, and 25-30 pushups was all I could do. If you can’t even make it through 15 minutes of exercise, that’s okay, the important thing is to just start and be consistent. You will look back in amazement a year or two from now at how far you have come.

I like the early morning workouts. We call it the “Golden Hour” because nothing else is going on to interrupt you. There’s no emails, phone calls, text messages, etc… Everyone else is probably still asleep. But, if you do opt for the early morning workout, get out of bed as soon as the alarm goes off. If you hit snooze or lay there for a few minutes, you will likely convince yourself to stay in bed and workout tomorrow. There are many mornings the alarm goes off and I don’t feel like getting up, but I  roll right out of bed and at the end of the workout I have never regretted it.

Just like I don’t count calories on the weekend, I take it easy and let my body recover on Saturday and Sunday. I usually get in some form of light exercise on Saturday, but Sunday is a day of rest. I also usually “sleep in” until about 6:30am, which really feels like sleeping in after getting up at 4:40am.

Two More Tips

Two more tips for reducing your useless load. Get a scale that will sync to your phone and weigh yourself every day. You are saying to yourself, “If I weigh myself every day, then what about those days after I ate bacon at breakfast and pizza with pepperoni and sausage for dinner?” Well, if you’re like me you might be 1 ½-2 pounds heavier the next day. And that’s okay, because it is probably mostly water weight from all the salt you had the day before. But, if those extra two pounds stick around for 3-4 days, I’m sorry to say it probably isn’t water weight, it’s probably the real thing.

There are a lot of options out there that don’t cost much and will sync to your phone via Bluetooth or WiFi. Having it sync up means that you can easily see trends in your weight. You can see your average weight week to week and if you are trending up or down. Remember, what you weigh day to day isn’t as important as the average weight week to week. But without the daily weight, there is no average to look at.

Lastly, never buy bigger pants. You may be laughing, but that one comes from one of my uncles. His reasoning was that if he bought bigger pants, he would just grow into them, and then outgrow them. If he didn’t buy bigger pants, when they were getting tight around the waist it was a constant reminder that he needed to eat less.

If you decide to join me in losing your useless load and improving your quality of life I would love to hear about your journey.

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