Did You Gain Weight Over Christmas?

Did You Gain Weight Over Christmas?

Washington State Ferry - photo Steven J. Brown


The following story from the Victoria Times-Colonist caught my attention yesterday:

Heavier Riders Force Capacity Cut on Washington State Ferries


A takeout from the page reads:

British Columbia had the fast ferries.

Now, Washington state has the fat ferries.


On Dec. 1, U.S. Coast Guard vessel stability rules raised the estimated weight of the average adult passenger to 185 pounds from 160 pounds. This was based in part on population information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to a coast guard report on the changes.


To comply with the new rules, the state-run ferry system has reduced the number of passengers on a number of routes, Marta Coursey, director of communications for Washington State Ferries, said Thursday.


“The U.S. Coast Guard certifies our vessels in terms of stability. It’s considered a safety issue. And so, as Americans increase in weight, if we have too many passengers on them, that would affect the stability of the vessels,” Coursey said.


CCGS Sir James Douglas

As far as I know the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) boats had no problem, earlier or now, as they carried limited crew, but the Coast Guard (CG) helicopters always had a weight problem!

As most of you can surmise, pilots must calculate the fuel weight for each trip, plus the weight of the number of passengers, plus the weight of the cargo. All of this added to the weight of the aircraft so that the helicopter can get off the ground and arrive at its destination(s) safely.

CG 253 - photo Paul Kurbis

I checked last week with a CG pilot and the standard weight used in calculations for each passenger on the old CG Sikorsky S-61N helicopter was two hundred (200) pounds (90 kgs)for males and one hundred seventy-five (175) pounds (80 kgs) for females (PLUS 5 pounds (2.3 kgs) in Winter – December to March – probably allowing for the extra weight of winter clothes).1

When leaving the lighthouse on holidays the lighthouse keeper and family tried to get as much weight on the chopper as possible as one never knew what one needed out in the big city, and if something was missing there was no way to go back for it.

This also applied to coming back to the lighthouse as we had picked up quite a few goodies on our holidays, and desperately wanted them back with us!

S-61 loaded

At the time I was working on the British Columbia lighthouses I was about one hundred and eighty (180) pounds (82 kgs) so I had twenty (20) pounds (9.1 kgs) credit didn’t I? Well, it didn’t work that way, but many a lightkeeper boarded the helicopter with carry-on baggage that would have killed a professional backpacker! A quote from a CG pilot: As you know, the light keepers always stretch the truth as to the weight of their cargo!

If the helicopter was near to capacity for the flight, even carry-on baggage was weighed! Those pilots were pretty smart!  🙂 We did not intentionally mean to cheat, but one could not wait to use the new deep fryer, or Skilsaw on the station! If we had to decide, we sometimes left suitcases full of dirty laundry at the CG Base for the next flight, and flew home with our treasures!

Waiting meant dreaming about the new purchase, sometimes for a whole month before the next helicopter arrived. It was thirty days of anxiety! I must say though that the CG people in Stores (where everything was weighed and categorized) and the CG pilots were always as helpful as possible in getting our stuff to us as soon as possible. 

I  must also say that because of their diligence, I never was on a helicopter that was unable to take off but I know at some times it was touch and go, weight-wise. Once in the air the helicopter starts to lose weight as the fuel is burnt, but it is that first jump into the air from a fully-loaded helicopter that creates the excitement!

MBB 105 - photo Paul Kurbis

By the way, it is a whole different story for the smaller helicopters like the MBB-105. Weight and balance is more critical. The same as for small aircraft.

So, are they going to raise the weight limit for CG personnel on the helicopters? That I don’t know. Does anyone have an answer?



The current Transport Canada‘s passenger weight standards are: 

  • males – summer 200 lbs, winter 206 lbs;
  • females – summer 165 lbs, winter 171 lbs;
  • children (2-11 years) – summer 75 lbs, winter 75 lbs;
  • infants (0-less than 2 years) – summer 30 lbs, winter 30 lbs; and
  • animals – the actual weights of the animals are used.



More information from Aviation Week which says New Regulations to Accomodate Heavier Passengers, Carry-Ons


It’s also on buses too! Overweight Americans are Making City Buses Unsafe

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Retired (2001) British Columbia lighthouse keeper after 32 years on the lights.

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