Study Looks For Age-Related Problems...

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Pilot Safety -- How Old Is Too Old?

The number of FAA-certified pilots age 80 and up has increased by 73 percent in the last five years, to about 3,800, even as the number of pilots overall declines. So how does that affect safety? A study by AOPA, due out next month, aims to find out. Insurance companies have routinely hiked their premiums for older pilots, presuming that their skills deteriorate with age. "AOPA members tell us that the cost and safety of flying is very important to them," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "This study is directly related to both of those issues." The study is overseen by James Deimler, who was the program manager for the FAA's Age-60 Rule study. The United Flying Octogenarians, a group with over 500 members, is participating in AOPA's study. Member Herbert Sloane, 91, of Alabama, told a Knight Ridder-Tribune reporter that he thinks the number of pilots over 80 is increasing because older people are "taking better care of themselves and insisting on doing things that, a few years ago, were denied them. People our age were supposed to sit in rocking chairs." The AOPA study is examining insurance claims, probing the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's accident database for the causes of accidents involving older pilots, and using an independent research organization to evaluate the cognitive and neuro-muscular skills of pilots as they age.