Obesity and airplanes
- Here is an interesting one from Yahoo! People get machines to transport
them everywhere. People get fat because they are not moving themselves.
The machines that move them burn more fuel, costing the people that
operate the machines to lose money. The companies go bankrupt. And
then.... [well, the president-elect has made commitments to free
markets - just as long as it doesn't affect oil and gas consumption.
I've got to be an optimist.]
Feds: Obesity Raising Airline Fuel Costs
ATLANTA - Heavy suitcases aren't the only things weighing down airplanes
and requiring them to burn more fuel, pushing up the cost of flights. A
new government study reveals that airlines increasingly have to worry
more about the weight of their passengers.
America's growing waistlines are hurting the bottom lines of airline
companies as the extra pounds on passengers are causing a drag on
planes. Heavier fliers have created heftier fuel costs, according to the
Through the 1990s, the average weight of Americans increased by 10
pounds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(news - web sites). The extra weight caused airlines to spend $275
million to burn 350 million more gallons of fuel in 2000 just to carry
the additional weight of Americans, the federal agency estimated in a
recent issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
"The obesity epidemic has unexpected consequences beyond direct health
effects," said Dr. Deron Burton of the CDC. "Our goal was to highlight
one area that had not been looked at before."
The extra fuel burned also had an environmental impact, as an estimated
3.8 million extra tons of carbon dioxide were released into the air,
according to the study.
The agency said its calculations are rough estimates, issued to
highlight previously undocumented consequences of the ongoing obesity
The estimates were calculated by determining how much fuel the 10 extra
pounds of weight per passenger represented in Department of
Transportation airline statistics, Burton said.
Obesity is a life-or-death struggle in the United States, the underlying
cause of 400,000 deaths in 2000, a 33 percent jump from 1990. If current
trends persist, it will become the nation's No. 1 cause of preventable
death, the CDC said earlier this year.
More than half 56 percent of U.S. adults were overweight or obese in
the early 1990s, according to a CDC survey. That rose to 65 percent in a
similar survey done from 1999 to 2002.
Although the Air Transport Association of America has not yet validated
the CDC data, spokesman Jack Evans said the health agency's appraisal
"does not sound out of the realm of reality."
With most airlines reporting losses blamed partly on record-high fuel
costs, everything on an airplane is now a weighty issue. Airlines are
doing everything they can to lighten the load on all aircraft, from
wide-body jets to turboprops.
Bulky magazines have gone out the door. Metal forks and spoons have been
replaced with plastic. Large carry-ons are being scrutinized and even
heavy materials that used to make up airplane seats are being replaced
with plastic and other lightweight materials.
"We're dealing in a world of small numbers even though it has a very
incremental impact" to reduce a 60- to 120-ton aircraft's weight by
bumping off a few magazines, Evans said. "When you consider airlines are
flying millions of miles, it adds up over time."
Although passenger bulk has been an issue in the past Dallas-based
Southwest Airlines requires large people to buy a second seat for
passenger safety and comfort Evans says it's not likely airlines will
scrutinize how much passengers weigh in the future. Instead, they are
trying to do a better job of estimating passenger weight in figuring out
how much fuel they need for a flight.
Seattle-based Alaska Airlines now calculates the weight of children on
flights, instead of using adult-weight formulas for all passengers,
"Just like we don't control the costs of our fuel, we don't control the
weights of our passengers," he said. "Passengers gain weight, but
airlines are the ones that go on a diet. It's part of the conundrum we
face right now."