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Seeing the Big Picture

Safety Spotlight: Aging Gracefully

As we grow older there are important factors to consider to fly safely, and as long as possible. These include looking at the potential effects of aging on airmanship, adjusting to age-related changes, and knowing when to slow down or stop flying.

Why Be Concerned?

Becoming older doesn’t necessarily equate to being less safe in the cockpit. Older pilots tend to have accumulated more experience and wisdom during the years, and this helps offset certain age-related issues. They also may have more time and disposable income to fly compared to younger people. However, flying more hours per year can account for an increase in accidents found in pilots 55 and older.

As we age, we’re bound to go through a period of decline. But the nature of decline and the aging experience is different for everyone.

The Numbers Game

Another concern is that with age, the body becomes more susceptible to damage and slower to heal. A landing accident you would have walked away from at age 40 might cause serious injury at age 70. This makes it more likely to be classified as an accident for statistical purposes.

We also have to face that as we age, we’re bound to go through a period of decline. But the nature of decline and the aging experience is different for everyone. For example, a smoker who has hypertension and a family history of heart disease is in reality more likely to perform at an age many years older than his or her chronological age. On the other hand, someone who’s never smoked, exercises regularly, and is within weight recommendations, may have the health of someone much younger.

An Honest Dialogue

What are some of the concerns related to growing older? Meet five pilots who offer their insights.