Experience Can Trump Aging In Pilots
Older pilots with advanced training and long experience may maintain their skills despite chronology.
(Sound of cockpit checklist chatter.) Older pilots could be cleared for takeoff. A recent study of 118 noncommercial pilots, suggests that the effects of aging might be offset with advanced training. The pilots, aged 40 to 69, were tested annually in a flight simulator for three years. Scores were assigned for various tasks, such as the ever important landing of the plane.
As a group, the forty-somethings got top marks each year. But the seniors didn’t suddenly lose their skills at age 60. Regardless of age, the best performers over time where those with the most training and experience in the first place. According to the study, published in the February 27th issue of the journal Neurology, a pilot who spends a decade or more refining his skills, builds a mental database of task-specific information that tends to stick with him, even as he ages. The same phenomenon has been seen in athletes and musicians. Currently even the experts have to quit at 60—and that might be a waste of a lot of first-class experience in the cockpit.