The Dark Side Of BasicMed


A few weeks ago, I spewed for a few hundred words on gear-up landings and this month I’ve been continuing the research. Just ask me about gear-up landings. Ask anything. I’m about to write a book. You’ll be enthralled.

As I was trudging through this, I finally got to the insurance angle and my colleague, Jon Doolittle, dug up some nuggets from insurance underwriters. One of them I was hoping I would never hear but knew was inevitable is this: Insurers are bracing themselves for a round of claims related to the fact that, for all its peachy-keen greatness, BasicMed will likely result in a rash of claims related to older pilots being kept in the cockpit who shouldn’t be.

There, I’ve said it, tossing the proverbial bolus into the punch bowl. Bracing and rash are probably too strong here. But let’s just say insurers have their antennas tuned for an uptick in accident claims. I think they’re right, but I also think it will be sporadic and difficult to track. I have reasons for thinking this and they all relate to the fact that I have always been the center of my own universe, my experience absolutely reflects undeniable truth and I’m never going to change. Readers who disagree should get their own blogs.

My theory, based on personal observation, is this: Take 10 pilots who are approaching “that age.” Seven out of the 10 will X themselves out, either because of money, lack of interest, family pressure or the self-realization that they’re no longer fit to fly. Some won’t be able to find parts for their 1956 Cessnas. Others will be found trying to slash their wrists with ADS-B blade antennas and will be escorted to somewhere where they can be supervised.

That leaves three. Two of the three—or maybe it’s a little less, I dunno—are the kinds of guys who can fly until they’re 100 and be relatively safe. I’m sure you know people like this. I’ve certainly encountered them. They seem to smoke and drink a lot.

So that leaves one in 10—or maybe a little less, I dunno—who isn’t fit to fly and either doesn’t know it or won’t admit it, and just wants to keep a hand in. They may be missing a step or two, but that doesn’t mean they’re a crater looking for a grid reference. Just because things look bad, doesn’t mean they are. I will readily concede that taxiing away with a cinderblock attached to the tail tiedown and a walker on the wing is a strong indication of a problem. (I saw the former; made up the latter.)

But some percentage of those guys—half or maybe less, I dunno—will get into accidents and there may be just enough of them to be barely discernible in the insurance data. They will plug this into spreadsheets and perform regression analysis and realize, holy %^$%, these old guys are killing us. We’ll see and hopefully it won’t be obscured by the warm golden glow of BasicMed. It could just as easily not happen at all.

So, not to bore you with further theoretical ramblings based on my personal sociological observations of pilots, let me just say this: Consider this blog a kind of physic dead man’s switch. Now I know I’m perfectly OK and will be for decades to come, but how about you? You’re not one of those guys the underwriters are worried about, are you?

I didn’t think so.