FAA seminars discuss the aging pilot

A pair of FAA Safety seminars on the topic of the aging pilot will be held on November 2 (5:30 pm at the Spokane Falls Community College, Building 24, Room 110, Spokane, Washington) and December 6 (5:30 pm at the Museum of Flight theater, on Boeing Field in Seattle). Following is the complete FAA Safety Team release on the subject.

At some point in life our skills, decision making, and ability to fly safely just aren’t as strong as they should be. Often, it’s because of inactivity or lack of practice.  Sometimes our skills and decision making erodes because of disease.  Often (but not always!) the onset of disease is associated with, complicated by, or made more likely by advancing years.

When is it time to say “I shouldn’t be flying as pilot-in-command”?  What clues should we look for when we undertake the brutally frank self assessment of our flying skills?  What indications should we look for in ourselves that suggest “it’s time”?  If we’re a CFI giving a flight review, what might tip us off that the pilot who we’re flying with is having more than just a bad day?  If we fly with our spouse or a friend and we’re uneasy and concerned, how do we help them notice and acknowledge their symptoms?  What would a Aviation Medical Examiner or other medical professional say about the noticed indications?

None of us likes to envision a future when we lose that edge that keeps us safe.  But, it happens.  Pilots are ‘take charge’ people.  So, how can we take charge and make the hard decisions for ourselves?  If we live with, fly with, observe, or offer a service (Flight Review, medical exam, etc.) to a pilot who’s exhibiting symptoms, how can we respectfully help the person come to the realization it’s time for honest and frank introspection?  That it’s time to scale back, accept less challenging flight conditions, and maybe even relinquish PIC?

Dr. R. Ronan Murphy is a Neurologist with an interest in Behavioral Neurology and Neuropsychiatry.  He is a Fellow at the Seattle VA Medical Center, and an Aviation Medical Examiner.  Dr. James B. Leverenz is an Associate Professor in Neurology, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington Medical School where he does research on degenerative neurological diseases.  We are privileged to have them visit with us and speak about this very important topic.

These seminars are sponsored by the FAA Safety Team, with assistance from the UND Aerospace Flight Training Center at Spokane Falls Community College, Spokane and the Museum of Flight in Seattle, WA. There will be ample time for questions and discussion!

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