Old Twin , Old Pilot – A Problem?

April 22, 2009 by Bruce Landsberg

It has been a tough year for crashes in “congested” areas as the FAA likes to refer to cities. The latest involved a 1974 Cessna 421B that went down while attempting a return to Ft. Lauderdale Executive (KFXE) airport.

The 80 year old pilot, according to news reports, advised the tower that he was having difficulty. In some respect this accident is quite similar to the Navajo crash that happened in North Las Vegas last summer. Both involved multiengine aircraft that only had one person aboard that suffered an apparent engine failure shortly after takeoff. In both cases the aircraft crashed short of the runway with no ground injuries but a building, aircraft and pilot destroyed.

My usual caveat applies, since we know few details about the accident so anything here is speculative. The local newspaper made much of the fact that the aircraft had two engines and thus should have been able to continue flight. Generally, most twins will remain airborne if the pilot does everything correctly, they aren’t too heavily loaded and the density altitude is such that continued flight is an option.

In this case, the Cessna was light and at sea level but if the pilot did not identify, verify and feather in the proper sequence and promptly, the outcome will be disappointing. I once ran a little experiment in the back of Flight Safety’s C421 simulator. We found that it took the average pilot, without the benefit of recurrent training, about 5 to 7 seconds to start corrective action in an engine-out emergency. After training that time was cut to about 3 seconds.

Twin or single, they have to be flown right. Some say the second engine just takes you to the crash site and that twins have two engines because they need both to stay airborne. You can engage in that debate without my help.

Of interest, is the pilot’s age and the fact that ASF is working with the University of North Dakota to measure how aging affects pilot performance. If you’re interested in volunteering let us know. Now that I’ve kicked over the hornet’s nest on twins and “mature” pilots, understand that good maintenance and genetics play a critical part on how old either pilot or aircraft really are.

Bruce Landsberg
Senior Safety Advisor, Air Safety Institute

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39 Responses to “Old Twin , Old Pilot – A Problem?”

  1. Adrian Gilbert Says:

    Hi Bruce

    I’ll happily volunteer to be a ‘guinea pig’ for your ‘ageing pilot’ study.

    We met on that flight with my cousin; Lee Gilbert, in his Cessna C441from Frederick to the West Coast a few years back.

    I’m an ‘ageing pilot’ – 64 years old – with 17,000 hours experience over the last 44 years of which 10,000 was on B747′s. I’m still flying actively: 4 flights in the DC-3 last Sunday, 2 flights in my Partenavia P68C-TC within the last few days. I’m also involved with Microlights: I have a 1/5 share in a Tecnam P2004 Bravo.

    So I would think I would be a good candidate for your study. I’m particularly keen to keep flying as long as I can: I still hold a Class 1 Medical Certificate with no restrictions and I attend a gym with a ‘personal trainer’ twice a week.

    Re the genetics: my Dad lived on to 88 – still fit to the end – while Mum died at 93 but she spent the last few years in a nursing home with her memory gone.

    Best regards

    Adrian Gilbert
    +64 21 4566 747
    adriangilbert@xtra.co.nz
    Skype: adrianz

  2. captleo Says:

    I am 70 years old and i believe that no mather how good you are and even how old you are you should practice engine out several times a year with a good safety pilot onboard, when was the last time this gentleman on the C421 did that? i think that the first thing you do after engine failure is fly the air plane with whatever you have then identified the problem maybe switch fuel tank, magnetos on both etc, etc. and when making a turn to the airport do a shallowed turn on the good engine, i may be wrong but has this gentleman be with another pilot on board, it will be a different story today.

  3. Alex Kovnat Says:

    In the past two weeks, we have seen two incidents involving twin engine planes. In one incident you had two engines but only one fully qualified pilot, who suffered a fatal heart attack shortly after the plane took off. Fortunately the other guy up front was a pilot, albeit not qualified on twins, and with a little help over the radio was able to land the plane safely.

    The second incident involved an elderly pilot who, age notwithstanding, did NOT suffer a heart attack but unfortunately, one of the planes two engines failed, namely the Cessna 421 crash cited above.

    A week or so back, I watched half of Alan Klapmeier’s speech at an aero club, in which he described the features of the latest Cirrus piston singles. One of those features is an autopilot whereby if something goes wrong, you simply push a button to get the plane on a steady course. That gives you time to explore alternative courses of action. Suppose that Cessna 421 had such a feature: Perhaps the pilot would have been able to handle engine failure better, and brought the plane to a safe landing on the other engine.

    It seems to me that especially with twin engine planes with high performance turbocharged engines, like the Cessna 421, there should be not only an autopilot like I mentioned above but also a feature whereby if an engine fails shortly after takeoff, you could jettison most of the fuel so the remaining engine doesn’t have to work as hard. One of the most famous multiengine piston planes of the post-World War II years, the Lockheed 749A (Constellation), had that feature and of course, today’s jetliners can also jettison fuel if necessary.

    Should all pilots be “grounded” upon reaching a certain age, i.e. 75, 80 or whatever? I don’t know ….. I can only say that while Steve Wittman (after whom the airport where they have AirVenture was named) and Scott Crossfield died in airplane accidents, but it was not due to pilot incapacitation. What happened to Mr. Crossfield can and has happened to others as well. And Steve W. died because of airframe failure, not heart failure.

    Should Cessna 421′s be grounded? A few years ago the Mitsubishi MU-2 had an unsavory reputation, but there are MU-2′s which are doing a good job in the hands of pilots properly trained.

  4. Alex Kovnat Says:

    I did a little more thinking about famous twin engine planes that are remembered as part of our airpower heritage. From what I’ve read in a long-ago issue of Wings/Airpower magazine, the F-82 Twin Mustang had a feature whereby if one of its massive V-12 engines failed, a shot of nitrogen under pressure would feather the prop on that engine. This of course makes it easier on the remaining engine. Could such a feature have saved that C421? Its something to think about.

  5. John Steuernagle Says:

    Last I checked North Las Vegas Airport’s 2215 MSL so, depending on temperature, the density altitude was at least that – probably more. Not likely a major factor in the outcome though unless the aircraft was really heavy.

  6. Mike Blackwell Says:

    I fly a 1976 Cessna 414. have plenty of hours, recurrent training, and have had engine troubles on takeoff right after lift off (50′). They (2 times) required a circle to land. One was made with 5 on board, the other was the first flight after the repair that didn’t correctly identify the problem with just me on board. In both instances I had time to identify, verify, and secure.
    My dad, now 77 years old, flew the same plane for years, was about 65 at the time. he realized that he had started to lose his edge at the next reccurrent training. He quit flying himself two years later. The experience that he has from many years of flying is still used when he is onboard, or in discussions on the ground, but he does not fly. The decision and motor skills are not there.
    An engine failure in a twin engine airplane is not a reason for a crash. Failure to continue to fly the airplane due to the distraction(an off airport landing is not a crash) is the unstated reason for a lot of crashes of this sort.
    Having read the articles of this crash with interest because I fly to that airporrt occasionally, the big question I have is when was the last flight that this pilot flew, and when was the last flight for this airplane. It has been reported that he was delivering it to sell. The experience i have seen and all the indicators are there, that there was a loss of need to fly, which resulted in a lack of currency. This coupled with the age related factors which we all wish to deny but need to recognize make for a bad combination.
    The HARDEST decision a pilot has to make regardless of age is whether they are mentally and physically fit for EVERY flight.

  7. Bob Hawley Says:

    And so the debate continues – the degree to which one’s various skills and capabilities diminish with age. Of course, part of that discussion must relate to the level of those skills to begin with!
    I am approaching 68, by most accounts “young for my age”, even once recently mistaken as a brother to my son (42 – maybe that just means he looks old for his age!). I came to flying relatively late (56) but now have over 1300 hours, most recently flown on our Cessna 310 on which I now have over 600 hours. Those who have flown with me have been kind in their assessment of my piloting skills. I read flying articles regularly and I am now preparing for my bi-annual instrument rating assessment, a requirement here in Canada. Coincidentally, I am also about to take my annual medical, vision and driving test to maintain my transport truck license – also a requirement here after age 65.
    With most aspects of life, I believe that chronological age is in large part just a number – the King Air pilot who tragically expired shortly after takeoff would not be considered “old” by most standards. You have correctly identified currency, health history and genetics as significant factors.
    Personally, I constantly try to assess my own performance as PIC of what is considered a Technically Advanced Airplane and wonder how long I will be capable of maintaining an satisfactory level of competence. I certainly hope that will last for a while yet especially since I came to flying so late in life. But I am sufficiently realistic to realize that my flying competency has a finite limit. I have thought of the time when I might downgrade myself to a simpler aircraft. One aspect of my assessment has been to raise my “personal minimums” since I now have the luxury of having very few absolute timelines (a recent such situation was answered by commercial flight) and I have made myself a solemn promise not to succumb to “get-there-itis”. I constantly try to conduct myself in the IFR environment in what I consider a “professional” manner and I RELIGIOUSLY follow the checklist!!!!
    So, in conclusion, I hope I outlive my flying career, but I do so love to fly that I surely hope it will continue for some time yet – my motto is “it took me a long time to become a pilot, I want to be one for a long time”. And I would be pleased to participate in any study you might do.
    Keep up the good work!

  8. Richard Sackett Says:

    You are entirely CORRECT! Please read Ft Lauderdale Sun Sentinel report today (4/24) for more info on the crash. As a 62 year old pilot who goes to flight safety every two years for my 421 (2000hrs) I still feel a twinge on takeoff and worry whether I am up to an engine out at that critical time.

    While I have flown (not by choice) on one engine several times over the last 25 years…the takeoff performance is still my greatest concern.

    In this case it appears that the plane should not have taken off in the first place. Romurs on the field abound about this plane and the facts support that conclusion.

    Two issues:

    1. Never takeoff with something wrong. Even a trivial malfunction can become a cascade that distracts and makes recovery impossible for the single pilot.
    2. Always get on the mental edge for known critical moments like takeoff.

    Item 1 is pretty self explanatory. Perhaps you could write about how cascade occurs.

    Item 2 is about relaxed over confidence. That is a another topic that would help some of us “older” pilots.

    (The pilot of the 421 had engine problems that required at least addition oil after runup. The initial runup lasted 20 minutes, a sure sign of anomoly.)

  9. Chris Burns Says:

    The only thing I would add to an excellent discussion is my thoughts on a blind spot which affects singles and twins.

    There is no easy way to defuel a general aviation aircraft and most pilots keep their tanks full to ward off condensation and bladder deterioration.

    Since weight and DA drive performance, unnecessary fuel is a liability…. especially in a light twin with already marginal engine out performance.

    I built a de-fueling rig which I use when engine out performance is compromised.

    Chris Burns
    Hanover, PA
    ATP

  10. rdth Says:

    I’ve always thought that a small solid fuel rocket mounted in piston twins would be an excellent safety device. If an engine fails on takeoff, light the rocket for a little extra thrust and airspeed. It might give you 30 seconds or so and a much more easily controlled airplane to clean up, feather and secure the dead engine. Pipe dream, I know, given that piston twins as a breed are not exactly thriving right now. Still, technically speaking, it shouldn’t be too much more difficult than installing a ballistic parachute in an airplane.

  11. Robert Pfeiff Says:

    Interesting discussion. I/m replying in regard to the elderly pilot study. I would be interested in contributing to that as an 80 year old with a second class medical who regularly flys a Citabria. I intend to add a seaplane rating this summer.

  12. George Andre Says:

    I am a 74 year old who regularly races at Reno, am a retired airline domestic/international airline captain, retired USAF fighter pilot, former high mach number manufacturer test pilot, airshow performer and aerobatic competition pilot, charter and corportate.
    Fourteen years ago the FAA said I was too old to command an airliner and employed unlawful age discrimination against me and many others.
    Currently I am working on my first Flight Instructor rating. Continued training is the key to safe performance. I’m sure a close look at some of these senior pilot accidents will show a large causal factor is inactivity and insufficient currency.
    THE MOST IMPORTANT WINGS ON AN AIRPLANE ON ON THE PILOT.

  13. Tom Phillips Says:

    I’m interested in participating in the aged pilot study. I’m 73 May 6, have been flying since I was 17, a “Johnny come lately” ATP. I worked for 42 years as an electrical engineer and when I retired at 61 in 1997, I got my Commercial, multi engine, ATP and started flying professionally. I have a CE500 type rating and a CE560 SIC Type rating, trained at Flight Safety.
    If you have any interest, please let me know.
    Regards,
    Tom Phillips

  14. EdPull Says:

    Training is what will save your bacon. I am currently 59 to celebrate my 60th birthday next year I will be making a record attempt around the world flight with my 60 yr old v-35 Bonanza in 6 days. Planning and physical fitness as well as a bit of favorable winds will make a succesful flight.

  15. Tom Navar Says:

    I have enjoyed aviation since building my first model airplane at age five. Presently, at age 63, I enjoy sharing my avocations in flying, sailing, and horses with my only child, a daughter who is seven. (I stopped flying cargo in a DC-3 when she was born). I am actively involved in flying for work and pleasure. My father, 91, stopped flying some years ago because of work, but we still share many thoughts on aviation. I fly a Baron 58, and a Cessna 180. Also a Pitts Special in aerobatic competition. Top condition in things mechanical, physical, and mental, as well as recurrent training, are paramount to survival at the moment of truth. However, in an otherwise imperfect world, there are some truths that cannot be circumvented, regardless of age or experience. A brief look at statistics show that the matter of airborne misadventures is not exclusive to aging pilots, regardless of reaction time, ballistic parachutes, rockets, rabbitt’s feet, etc.
    The most important issue in aging pilots is not so much the age of the airframe, as many beautiful aircraft will outlive us if maintained well, but rather the presence of mind of the individual who, at the right time, will willingly surrender his wings.
    Tom Navar
    ASMEL, SES, comm’l fixed and rotorcraft

  16. Paul Green Says:

    Regarding the accident in North Las Vagas, the pilot of that PA-31 was a regular feature around the San Francisco area. He was a delivery pilot and was in his 40′s.
    Airplane was overweight if I recall correctly.
    Recurrent training is the best medicine for anyone flying highly complex aircraft. It will show your mistakes and get you back on track. (Prefer a motion sim if its available and if you can afford it.).
    I am 61 and have flown with many different pilots. Some 70 and 80 years are sharp and on it. A few not. Those pilots I have always recommended that they hire a pro to fly with them. Most people that have a 400 series or better have the means to support paying a pilot. But as we know, ego can get in the way. Another accident to verfy this is the JFK Jr. accident. He would still be here if he hired a professional pilot that night and he was what? In his 30′s.

  17. Michael Townsend Says:

    Howdy Bruce,
    I thought I would respond to this thread (I am usually somewhat reluctant to do such things) but your comment about FSI’s C421 simulator got me interested. I was a ground, simulator and flight instructor in the pistion twin program at FlightSafety International Cessna Learning Center from 1998-2006 and Program Manager for the C441, 425 and piston twin programs. I also taught the 425 sim and the CRM course. I have seen a lot single engine piloting skills as a result with pilot’s of all ages and experience.
    Some of the things I really tried to drive home was to have a plan of action and to review that plan before every takeoff. Before taking the active review the engine out on takeoff memory-immeadiate action items out loud and heading, altitude and where we are going when the engine fails; during the takeoff roll at 80kts call out the airspeed and look at all of the engine instruments; at blue line due the same thing and be ready for an abort. Once we are flying stay on the gages for the first 1,500 feet VFR. The most common “accident” in the sim was the Vmc roll-over, this was usually caused by momentary tightening of the left arm and hand muscles (resulting in pulling the elevator control back) when I failed an engine and the pitch going too positive relitively fast due to momentary stress and not enough rudder compensation. The age of the pilot really did not matter, especially in initial training. I saw low time young pilots react just the same as high time older pilots. However, with practice, a plan and personal commitment to excellence the engine out scenario was mastered. Another area that pilots were weak in was the performance graphs. I hammered that for every flight ALL of the graphs had to be done, especially when I flew in the airplane. Commitment to the principles of CRM/SRM/ADM is always the answer to flying safe above all other factors. The above is just the tip of the iceberg though, and I am certainly no expert. By-the-by the Constellation could only jetison the tip tanks and only the FE could do it! I don’t speak for FSI at all, this is just the opinion of a retired instructor. I will miss Mr. Daryl Weller of the C441 program who passed away last year of cancer. He was the best instructor I ever knew. Michael Townsend

  18. Eliot Brown Says:

    I am happy to help
    Birthday 9/14/1944
    ATP
    I fly 250>400 hours per year
    Commander 840

  19. H. K. 'Bud' Flesher Says:

    The thing I am reminded of constantly when reading various air safety articles and the many, many flying magazines and journalls is the old saying, “When you operate, you can expect losses.” I’m 76 and I’ll be happy to participate in the performance study. I went through the AF pilot training program and graduated with class 54N (that’s right 55 years ago.) I flew fighters my entire career (except for a few years as a guest of the N. Vietnamese.) A great part of my AF career was spent in flight test work and I can still ‘go up the ladder.’ I have accumulated about 11,000 hours and currently fly my Aerostar 601P all over the country_some of it, unplanned, but never unanticipated, as a single engine aviator. As many of you have mentioned, there are countless factors that can affect a particular situation. I have always believed that panic/fear is problably the most over looked/avoided ingredient of the various possibilities. We all know there are people flying today that should never even be allowed around an airport let alone fly an airplane. My eyes are certainly not as good as they once were and my hearing is less that it was when I was 21, but I plan to continue to fly as long as I still love it and/or until I ever feel a twing of self doubt of fear. As I said, there are many factors influencing accidents, but age would be very close to the bottom of the list. So, that said, I repeat,we are never going to eliminate accidents as long as we ‘operate.’

  20. Jack Silva Says:

    I’ve read most of the comments above. I am a 68 year old Corporate pilot with ATP, etc. I fly a 421C and go to Flight Safety every year. I am also a current Flight Instructor. When I’m not flying for my job, I’m flying my Bonanza or my wife’s Cessna 150. I don’t feel for one instant that I’m losing my edge. Why, because of the constant training, and the hundreds of hours I fly this airplane every year. I belileve most accidents are caused by pilots that are not training concious and do not fly consistantly much more than age. There is nothing wrong with an 80 year old pilot if he trains and fly’s regularly. I’ve seen many pilots that fly 15 hours a year sometimes less. Sometimes they will fly 6-7 hours on one month then the balance of the 7-8 hours the rest of the year. This is a accident waiting to happen. More facts about the 421 pilot in Florida need to be known..

  21. Terry Dill Says:

    At 61, I have been flying for 35 years and have accumulated over 6,000 hours. This time has been in many different aircraft, perhaps over a hundred models. I am a flight instructor and muti-engine instructor, and have given dual in a Cessna 421A, Cessna 421C, Piper PA-31P (Pressuirzed Navajo), Piper Apache, Piper Aztec, Beech Baron 55, and some I don’t recall. Most of my multi instruction involves qualifying owners or their pilots in the various aircraft. I have logged over 1500 hours as corporate pic in the C-421s and PA-31P.

    I have, however, attempted to make my living as a maintenance type rather than a pilot/instructor. Im an A&P with IA. I operated the Flight & Technology Laboratory for the AOPA ASF under Archie Trammell in the early 80′s. Following that, I worked for Alphin Aircraft (now Hagerstown Aircraft), where I had the most fun flying. Many will remember Alphin aircraft as Alphin worked damaged aircraft up and down the East Coast. At Alphin, There would be weeks where I flew several different aircraft a day, all week long. then there would be weeks where I only flew once a week. Regarding skill, I made specific note of the fact that I could tell whether I flew an hour a day, or an hour a week.

    All of us have felt proficient, and not proficient. In my experience, when I am flying a lot, I am more comfortable, more relaxed, and more observant. When I am rusty, I am nervous, focused on some things at the exclusion of other things, less comfortable and enjoy it less. It takes very little flight time to knock off the rust of an experienced pilot. What we must understand is that proficiency is on a scale. The more proficient one is, the more likely he will have the resources to deal with emergencies.

    I have noticed while flying with several “older” gentlemen that hearing often is an issue. I have encouraged a few to invest in noise cancelling headsets. Having trouble understanding a controller tends to build anxiety, and lead to blunders. Also, not knowing or understanding (or remembering) regulations clearly leads to anxiety and further possible complications. I have been decrying the use of the phrase, “Any traffic in the area please advise” for years – long before it became specifically addressed in the 2007 issue of the AIM. Yet I still hear all sorts of pilots using it – from university pilot candidates to jet jockeys. There is a flight instructor (retired school teacher) as well as a Board of Aviation president that still use it at my base airport. In my opinion, this shows lack of thoughtfulness as well as failure to study the AIM.

    “Good maintenance and genetics” – a complex concept. I agree.

    Please advise if I may be of any help.

    Terry Dill
    Com Pilot: ASEL ASES, MEL, Glider, Instrument Airplane
    CFI: Single and Multi-Engine
    A&P, IA

  22. Dr. Robert Jane Says:

    Both Al Haynes (Sioux City DC-10 life-saving landing) and Chesley Sullenberger (Hudson River life saving landing) were in their late 50′s at the times of their events. Barring measurable disability, age itself is simply not a factor. Attitude, committment, and training are determining for competence.

    Bruce, I am a bit surprised to see your headline posed as a question. With extensive accident databases available, including pilot age, it should be straightforward to determine the contribution of age to accident frequency and severity, balanced for experience, etc.

  23. Bill Walker Says:

    Bruce,
    My dad passed his Instrument Pilot Rating checkride on his 80th birthday and went on to fly IFR safely for three years until he fell ill to Lung Cancer. I am 70 and fly our Twin Comanche most weeks, feeling fully proficient. Two years ago I had a solid engine failure at 150 ‘ AGL on takeoff in the T-Com at Gross when departing Fun-n-Sun, feathered and climbed out over to Bartow, FL where repairs were made. These two accidents in big twins flown by old guys does not compare to the hundreds of accidents by younger pilots. In short, lets keep it real. The old guys learned how to fly a struggling aircraft to safety back when the system was not nearly as forgiving as it is today. Leave us old guys alone. Our real statistics are extraordinarily good.

  24. Lee Taylor Says:

    I’m 71 years old and instruct in piston and turbin singles and twins. I’d be happy to volunteer for your research on “aging pilots”

    One of the problems I see a great deal is multi engine rated pilots who do not keep up with recurrent training. It doesn’t have to be done at a part 142 school, but it does have to be done to keep your skills proficient. I wonder how recently the two pilots in this article had done any recurrent trianing?

  25. Wilkes McClave Says:

    Bruce — I’m just 62, fly a Baron 58 regularly (200+ hours/year) do recurrent training every year and am happy to volunteer for your research.

  26. Dr Edo McGowan Says:

    Bruce, you note——- If you’re interested in volunteering let us know.———-

    I’m interested, turning 71 and have been a pilot for several decades, using aircraft as elevated research platforms. I think that a medical background might be a plus as a volunteer. I was a researcher and bioengineering coordinator with Sandia National Lab/VA/UCLA teams. We worked with hyperbaric oxygen for tissue regeneration. This included work with the endothelial cell as well as brain injuries and all this related to getting the correct tissue oxygen levels. I mention this because rapid and correct cognition depends on oxygenated blood flow to the brain, hence impacting decision making which is an essential part of executive function. The ability to make rapid and correct decisions is a brain function that requires the back halves of the cerebral hemispheres to collect and identify sensory data process that input and then route such to the frontal lobes. The frontal lobes analyze these data in order to decide what action is most appropriate. Choosing one action (or response) over another is based on split second evaluation. This is called executive function.

    There are studies showing that the capillary beds of the aging brain undergo change and this may affect the delivery of blood during high stress conditions that retard executive function capacity. In looking at the typical flight physical it appears that after a certain age, there should be some way to ascertain executive function condition, but currently that seems not to be the case. While I don’t think that this is yet included in the fight physical, as the age component percentage of the population increases with the baby boomers, we are going to need to consider these issues as part of the flight physical. This may change the sport pilot requirements which are now based on a mere driver’s license. With increasing LSA up in the air, gravity really does not care what it pulls on, but an aging sport license percentage of pilots may make a difference in the accident stats and looking at brain blood flow early on may have some merit.

    In the aging brain, as noted by Elizabeth Burns, et al., endothelial cells which line the blood vessels, including the brain, decline with increasing age. Researchers find that this reduction in number is accompanied by an increase in length of these cells. This may also accompanied by a significant decrease in the mean diameter of microvessels, hence reduced capacity to carry oxygen. The endothelial cells, to function properly, require a metabolic supply that is about 100 times that of other cells.

    Observations by Ravens at the light microscope level in 100 senile human brains, ranging in age from 64 to 118 years, revealed that capillary beds in both gray and white atrophic areas were “dense and sparsely disrupted” and that these changes increased progressively with advancing age. He concluded that changes at the capillary level directly involve transport mechanisms leading to disturbances of neuronal function, electrolyte imbalance, and synaptic activity. He concurs with Pickworth, who held that mental and emotional stages have histopathological representations in cerebral capillary patterns which are causally related to altered mental activity.

    A regression analysis revealed a significant decline with age in endothelial mitochondria per capillary profile. Thinning of capillary walls, luminal narrowing, and thickening of the outer basal lamina may affect the capacity of the cerebral capillary bed to sustain an adequate cerebral blood flow, particularly during stress or when an increased blood flow might normally occur. This may be exacerbated by increased resistance to blood flow through a more narrow capillary lumen. With the additional possibility of an increased rigidity of capillary walls due to the increased thickness of the outer basal lamina, the issue may be compounded. Burns notes that it is not known whether ultrastructural changes affect passive permeability or carrier-mediated transport across the capillary wall. However, the decline in endothelial mitochondria per cerebral capillary profile suggests a decreased work capability, at least in aged nonhuman primates. This may alter active transport mechanisms, thus adversely affecting the delivery of substrates needed by the brain for energy metabolism and day-to-day neuronal restorative processes.

    There are now ways to record all this and determine blood flow and cognitive impact under stress. Hopefully these studies can be conducted and some answers gained. In our EAA chapter we have the luxury of having a very fit WWII P-38 pilot who still is a very active pilot. At the same time we have much younger members that are now apterus. It would be interesting to just look at cerebral blood flow in these two groups, especially under a stress situation.

  27. Bruce Says:

    Wonderful comments! One of the best threads we’ve had. Being defensive on the title for just a moment – I suspect a few may not have read with as much enthusiasm had I gone with a softer lead. Sorry – it’s the media thing.

    Regarding volunteers – I will ask our project coordinator to get in touch with those who showed an interest. I think we’ll all be interested to find out “the” answer and I’m already betting on the outcome.

    Many Thanks for your thoughts……Bruce

  28. Dr. Robert Fox, Jr. Says:

    Bruce,

    I’m up for volunteering on the aging Pilot study. I’m 68 and did not get my license until age 62. Presently I fly a Comanche 250 with 600 hrs. I’ve have training in light twins and have remained in single engine aircrafts.

    I have watch or listed 40 plus deaths in the past 15 years around my area and have realized most were pilot errors from well skill pilots and not so skill pilots. I have had engine failure on landing, electrical fire in the cockpit, lost directional control on landing from FBO shearing off my front stop turn radius and electrical failure out climb out.

    My aircraft has the most advance electronic avionics with weather-AP-and Garmin GPS’s etc.. I’m working on my IFR rating and frequent fly with twin drivers.

    Aging aircrafts are the greatest factor in safety and the failure of AP’s abilities to diagnose and correct reported issues and under-estimate the pilot risks in flying these old tired birds.

    As a surgeon, if I were to deliver the care I have witnessed from many AP’s I’d soon be out of business. I’m referring to the best in the business Asked them and them will tell you they are the best.

    Many AP’s are generalist without having to be re- certified. I have asked a supervisor for America Airline this attitude and he states he has the same problems on certain teams he manages. They sincerely feel a minor problem is not an issue and will not put an aircraft in flight danger! They are so wrong.

    I fly my aircraft waiting for the “Bird Strike” and know it will require all my learning and situational reaction to achieve a livable ending.

    Bob

  29. Jack Williams Says:

    You and the others are right. Frequent training to profiency is necessary. I soloed in 1942, U S Navy 1944, Naval Aviator 1947-1956,reserve thru 1966,airline pilot 1956-1986, corp.pilot 1986-1992,quad by-pass 1992, still fly Bonanza-Baron-King Air.Total 29,000+ hours. Want to try out an 82 year old ? I’m willing. Folks call me Jake

  30. bill post Says:

    I’m a 65 yr. old pilot and have been flying air taxi for the past 30 yr. You mentioned the ASF study of age and pilot performance and I would be interested in participating.

  31. Walt Weaver Says:

    Thank you everyone for talking me into quitting flying. I’ve been flying for 40+ years but now only put in 20-30 hours a year, all VFR, just flying around Montana/Idaho/Wyoming. After reading all these comments I now know I am unsafe and shouldn’t be flying. Guess I’ll concentrate on mountain biking and kayaking and leave the flying to people who, at least in their mind, are MUCH more competent than me. Have fun guys. I’m outa here.

  32. Sam Sharp Says:

    Bruce,

    For myself at age 59 and no job prospects, the skies will be a lot safer without my aging carcass behind the controlwheel.

    However, its been my experience (21,600 hours worth) that its the pilot’s attitude towards his craft, the prospective flight, and the respect for the inherrent outcome of flight, that directly affects our decision making processes.

    I’ve had the opportunity to witness some really “slick hot rocket aces” butcher an otherwise good flight by expressing their attitude towards other pilots in the cockpit. Some of these ‘rocket aces” have several violations to prove their lack of regard for staying current, reading the latest procedures, and participating in AOPA’s safety foundation quizes. Their attitudes reflect some other deficiency such as; “who’se the greatest pilot you ever saw?” “You’re lookin’at ‘im!!” Their wives usually beat them at home when they don’t deliver their paycheck to them on time.

    At age 59, I am no longer the Motocrosser that I was when I was 19, but I’m a lot faster rider now since I don’t crash as much when I’m racing the grandkids. And no, I don’t do tripple jumps.

    At age 59, I’m a more comfortable pilot than I was at 19 since; “a superior pilot uses his superior brain to avoid using his superior skills. And, I don’t crash as much….

    The only way to quantify the above sentence is to remain proficient through proficient training, currency, and having a good attitude.

    Thanks, Bruce

    Sam Sharp

  33. Sheldon O. Bresin Says:

    I,m a 79 year old pilot that flys a Twin Comanche and I hold ATP. CFII and Ground Instructor certificates. I have approximately 12,500 hours with approximately 6,500 of those as flight instructor. Considering my age, experience and desire to support the evaluation of age on airman performance I
    would appreciate the opportunity to be evaluated.

  34. Sam Sharp Says:

    Hi Bruce,

    I failed to add an observation of an incredible pilot in my area. He will be 74 years old this year, and has been an aerial applicator for over 40 years. His ability to handle emergencies, even after a ‘long day in the saddle’, is well known.

    His Piper PA-11 is far prettier than any R/C model ever could be, and his Sky Wagon is maintained to perfection as well. To watch him fly his aircraft proves my point; that flying should be treated as an art form. If you can’t put your signature on each flight, it wasn’t a good one.

    Reynold (RAY) Harksen is as smooth as R.A. “Bob” Hoover behind the controls, and is very much an “old school” pilot that uses the latest technology to apply his bug warfare. You can take the pilot out of the cockpit, but you can’t take the ‘stick and rudder’ out of this pilot.

    Ray is just one example of the many older pilots that I have been associated with, or have given check rides to, and all of them have handled emergencies both simulated, and real, to a successful outcome.

    When Rod mentioned in his last article about “an out of fuselage experience”, many of us have used the “detached awareness” technique to handle the things that go bang in the night. A pilot will have plenty of time to shake and count his blessings after the bird is on the ground. Ray will agree to that.

    On my earlier note, I spelled triple, “tripple”. I should have added the “, since we motocrossers associate the triple-jumps with a couple of crippled knees. Try a V1 cut after a botched landing after a “tripple” followed by a “Flyin’ W” over the handle bars. No offense to George “W”. To get the sound effects right, have your check airman separate a KFC drumstick joint from a thigh just as he chops the critical engine, and you’ll get the idea what it sounds like to me when I stomp on the rudder.

    My former orthopaedic surgeon told me years ago to stay off of dirt bikes. But I told him years ago to stay out of Barons. He’s the one that left his Baron in the top of a 60′ tall cottonwod tree after an engine quit on him… And, he walked (after shinnying down the cottonwood) away. That’s o.k., he left the strobes on, as the fuel ran down the trunk of the tree. Flames from leaking fuel out of an aircraft usually propagate towards the heavens. Flames very rarely follow a doctor down a tree after the fuel ignites.

    -Sam

  35. KING AIR PILOT Says:

    I WOULD SAY THAT THE STATEMENT YOU HAVE MADE ABOUT THE
    OLD PILOT AND OLD AIRPLANE, IS A GOOD GRADE OF BULLSHIT.
    IT IS EASY FOR ONE TO SIT IN A CHAIR, AND JUDGE OTHERS MISTAKE.
    IF YOU KNOW YOUR AIRPLANES, YOU WOULD KNOW THAT THE M.F
    WAS ON FIRE. ALSO THERE HAS BEEN SEVERAL CESSNA 42I CATCH
    FIRE IN FLIGHT. THE 421 HAS MANY PROBLEMS.
    BOTTOM LINE — OLD PILOTS, AND OLD AIRPLANES DON,T HAVE A DAMN THING TO DO WITH IT.

  36. Al Uhalt (AOPA 53952) Says:

    I suspect I qualify as being an “aging” pilot. I might be able to be a subject in your study. I hold ATP and CFI certificates with SMEL&S and G ratings; have been a licensed pilot for 62 years. If interested, contact me.

    Al Uhalt (AOPA 53952)
    2533 Shalimar Drive
    Colorado Springs, CO 80915-1030
    719-574-1111

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