Top Letters And Comments, May 27, 2022


Seeing The Invisible

Operating a commercial hot air balloon operation for two decades, your wind summary is spot on. Wind is the engine, directional control or brake for a lighter-than-air (LTA) aircraft and its through understanding critical to safe operations. We use all the elements mentioned in maneuvering a LTA and its understanding critical when winds pick up.

Robert E.

Interesting…I taught whitewater rafting and canoeing at Georgia Tech (while I was still in high school. Note-my father was a professor there and I was more of an assistant) Physics students would take the course to visualize hydraulic systems and eddy currents around rocks.

That is also how I visualize air flow, like water flowing down a river. And how I explained air flow to student pilots (we are all permanent student pilots). It becomes very important when the winds are high and you are flying low in a helicopter around a large city. That airflow can be as disruptive as a Class 5 or 6 rapid. In a Robinson, this could mean you will possibly get a tail strike and fall to your death…not a pretty sight as we have seen recently.

Richard G.

Cutting You Loose

Thank you for this perspective, this is very helpful in understanding the perspective of ATC. As someone about to go for his IAR check ride, it’s really useful to hear how controllers handle lateral and vertical vectors. I really appreciate when a controller takes the time to fit me into their workload during my (probably very annoying) practice IAP requests.

Tim M.

I am often offered “Proceed on Course” by my local Class C as I transit VFR to a nearby Class G airport. Now I know (or hope) that the controller knows I am headed for the Class G involved. That is why I asked to transit the Class C. But I have never been comfortable with that “Proceed on Course”. My response to that or a “Resume own Navigation” is to respond:

“Proceeding on course/Resuming own Navigation – direct KXXX at 3,000 – N1234” or some such to be crystal clear what I am now planning on doing.

Graeme S.

Poll: Should the Airline Retirement Age Be Extended Beyond 65?

  • I’ve been an Aviation Medical Examiner for 40 years (and a pilot for 53), and it is clear to me that individuals vary widely. Some pilots are losing the edge at 55, others are energetic, sharp and still on top of their game at 75. The original age 60 rule was entirely arbitrary, pulled out of thin air by a committee of non-aviators at the AMA. There have not been safety-related problems since Congress raised the age to 65. There is no reason why pilots who are sharp, who continue to pass every-six-month medical exams and perform well on recurrent training and checkrides NOT to fly to 68 or even 70. Obviously it won’t be for everyone, and contracts should be structured so that those like William B who are just too tired for the airline life at 65 or earlier can retire without penalty. The number of forcibly-retired airline pilots who jump to flying equally sophisticated jets under Parts 91 and 135 are testament to the foolishness of a one-size-fits-all mandate to throw them out of airline cockpits at 65.
  • A fixed age is a relic of an earlier time in medicine, before we knew that people are vastly different on an individual level. Further, with modern diagnostic and testing tools, it is insane that we use a fixed age rather than a series of medical tests to determine pilot health. There is no reason why a person should be forced into retirement simply because of the number of years they have lived. As long as a pilot can pass a physical approparate to their age and the demands of their job, they should be able to continue flying. There is no mandatory retirement age for doctors or surgeons, although they certainly have the potential to cause harm in the event of a physiological incident. Drivers have no maximum age, yet our streets and highways are not littered with bodies and wreckage. It’s time we recognize mandatory retirement ages for what they are. DISCRIMINATION.
  • Extend if you must, but don’t prevent pilots from retiring earlier than mandatory when they feel it’s time for themselves to go out. Airline managements would love to force pilots to “Fly till you die”. Saves them money.
  • I fly a King Air 200 single pilot on corporate flights–I have over 11,000 hours in King Airs, and fly them between 350 and 600 hours a year. I normally fly single-pilot–but do have the option of having a copilot if the trip will be difficult (weather, duty time, busy airspace, or “if I just feel like it.”) I often take a younger pilot along just to give them the experience on turbine aircraft.–and often take my Private Pilot wife along. I’m typed in 6 jets, but don’t have one to fly today. People ask about flying the King Air single pilot–I respond “It’s under 12,500#–what’s the difference between flying it or a Baron–are you proposing to ground anyone over 65?” The King Air is easy to fly and well equipped–and nearly every flight is IFR–but little “in the weather” time in the flight levels. I’m in good health–take my flight physicals at Mayo Clinic–and take an insurance-mandated training and check ride every year. If people are worried about pilot incapacitation–perhaps they would be more comfortable if the age were LOWERED to the 30’s– (witness the Caravan pilot incapacitation). All in all, pilot incapacitation is something to CONSIDER–but age alone is not an issue. I’ve seen studies that show NO CORRELATION between accidents for older pilots (with the exception of gear-up landings) and the general pilot population. Most older pilots don’t HAVE to fly due to schedules–they (like ALL pilots) have the option to refuse a flight. Also, many older pilots are retired professionals–who have no problem refusing a flight. -Jim H.
  • 70. If a pilot can hold his/her medical and pass recurrent training, why not?
  • There should be no 121 retirement age: if you can hold a First Class medical, then you should be able to work.
  • Fitness exam – as it is currently – without age consideration. While medical issues are statistically more likely with age in the general population, this data set is NOT the general population. A limitation could be placed on pilots over a certain age that their copilot be under a given age. That would be a good compromise position. But everyone is an individual and we all deserve to be treated as such.
  • A first class medical certificate is all that should be required. It’s already the standard.
  • You going to get the rest of the world to join in? It’s 65 worldwide. Presumably the >65yo pilots will be restricted to USA only. Can they overfly Canada on a USA/USA route? Well – I guess the airlines schedule harder circumstances.
  • Age is a number, not a destination. There are some young’uns out there that shouldn’t be flying.
  • 70 if complying with comprehensive health check-up.
  • Mandatory age should be retired. Let’s just go with physicals and check rides. If you can do the job and have experience doing it; why should that be thrown out just because you’ve seen the sun come up one time too many. Does a pilot who is sixty-four years, three hundred and sixty-four days and twenty-three hours somehow become suddenly incapable in a single hour’s time? Hell no. Age limits are unfair and discriminatory and only serve to keep process by which we lose experience and wisdom in favor of youth and ignorance. Let’s get rid of age and use physicals and practical tests.
  • A number of years is crazy. As long as they can pass a physical, they should be able to continue.
  • Base it on demonstrated abilities, not age.
  • As long as a pilot can pass a first class medical — let them keep working if they want to – let the airlines set their own retirement schemes.
  • Medical exams and checkrides are sufficient mitigations to the safety threat offered by diminished mental and physical health. Setting an arbitrary (or based upon statistics of unknown applicability) retirement age is a labor and business point of contention that has little if anything to do with safety. Measure ability, not age. However for the time being, the closest thing we have to an objective measure of cognition and decision-making is called a checkride!
  • I would vote no. Not to tell stories but with so many lawyers around it is extremely difficult to force retirement on pilots that are well past their best before date.
  • There should be no limit. It should be based on physical and cognitive abilities. Any “line in the sand” age is just arbitrary. I have flown with crew members that should have retired at age 50 and others, now retired, running marathons and working on advanced degrees at age 70.
  • Cease issuance of 1st and 2nd class medical at 65.
  • After age 65, commercial pilots should have to pass stricter medical and cognitive exams every 6 months. If they pass, keep flying to 70.
  • 75 if they can pass a mental acuity test.
  • Yes, to 70, depending on enhanced medical evaluations, especially in two-pilot cockpits, allowing 65+ to serve as first officers. Don’t lose all that experience.
  • Depends on each individual pilot, some are sharp at 70 while others should probably hang it up at 55. A battery of tests will determine who is mentally and physically fit to fly after age 60.
  • 70 with a first class medical.
  • No age restriction for command experience. Based purely on medical condition for two crew cockpits! Airline pilots are now largely systems operators.
  • 68…based on individual worthiness.
  • A pilot should be allowed to continue flying in air carrier operations as long as they are able to pass the first class medical exam and all required check rides.
  • 70 with a thorough medical examination every 120 days.
  • Age does not determine capability or fitness – meet the standards and pass the test rides and you should be able to fly.
  • Yes, otherwise it’s just plain age discrimination.
  • I had to go at 60. NASA hired me to fly the DC-8 and 747, and I stayed until 71…when I chose to go.
  • Why not raise the SIC retirement age? This way younger pilots can progress to the left seat with the benefit of having a seasoned expert beside him in the cockpit.
  • Depends on medical history.
  • The airlines should conduct a test to confirm all pilots are still capable regardless of age. If they are good, then let them fly.
  • An airline pilot, like any other pilot, should be able to continue to fly as long as they can maintain a medical and pass checkrides.
  • 70 if medically/mentally fit.
  • Reduced to 60.
  • What does the data show? Is 66 or 67 or ‘xx’ significantly higher than 65?
  • Absolutely this age requirement is BS. I’ve been retired for 3 years now from AA. If one can’t hold a first class medical then you’re done. Pilots are living older and taking care of their health these days. The wealth of information and experience thrown out at 65 is a tragic loss.
  • Competency tests until no longer able.
  • Only if they can still fly their current routes.
  • There is no good reason for an age limit. Airline pilots are subject to frequent medical examinations, as well as flight and knowledge tests. Some people should quit flying in their 60s and some are quite capable at 80.
  • 70 years with a younger first officer.
  • Retirement should be based on the ability of a pilot to pass a physical and check ride. A mandatory age is nothing more than age discrimination and should be illegal and is certainly immoral.
  • Yes; but, drop to FO at 65, then stay till medically retired.
  • Age should not matter as long as an applicant can pass a physical. A fixed age amounts to discrimination and is grossly unfair.
  • Good health, reflexes, etc. No one human is the same as another.
  • Why set a hard age? When deficiencies become apparent through testing – be it check rides, corporate standards, or otherwise, then it’s time to hang it up.
  • As long as the pilot can pass the physical and maintain flight standards, he/she should be able to fly as long as they want to.
  • 70 or until a doctor says differently.
  • Study the data, then decide. Maybe there needs to be a mandatory retirement age for politicians….
  • Till death do us part.

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  1. Australia and New Zealand have had no retirement age limit for at least 10 years. The experience has not demonstrated any safety concerns. There are other countries who have no age limits and some like Japan who lifted their limit to 68. You would think that ICAO, the FAA and EASA should research those countries to verify there is no issue and get rid of their discriminatory rules.

  2. Bodies vary considerably – that’s why medical examinations.

    As for mental ability, there are pilots who are not really smart – I was shocked at the lack of understanding of some pilots flying for US majors when I pointed to reasons for takeoff weight limitations and related the story of Pacific Western operating all night to service their customers in Smithers BC when wx and mechanicals delayed flights. Most of those airlines went broke.