...A Higher Standard For Pilots?

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Pilots who have suffered head injuries and are being evaluated for a return to flight duties should be held to a standard above what is considered average in the general population, a new study from the University of Missouri-Columbia suggests. "Military aviators score significantly higher on standardized intelligence tests than the average person," said researcher Daniel Orme, who tested more than 5,600 U.S. Air Force personnel over a five-year period. To be safe, aviators should be held to a performance standard based on what is average for the pilot population. Orme's database could be used to establish "norms" for pilots, and could also be used by the FAA when evaluating commercial pilots, he said.

"A pilot suffering cognitive impairment from a head injury could still test above the norm when compared to the general population," Orme said. "However, concern would be raised if test scores are below expectations based on pilot standards. This information would be incorporated into findings of an extensive, multidisciplinary medical evaluation, the outcome of which would be a recommendation whether or not to return to flying." The standards aim to prevent allowing an impaired pilot back into the cockpit because of a missed diagnosis, which could place the aircrew and the mission in jeopardy.