William Shakespeare – All the world's a Stage (from As You Like It )


The ageing Pilot

Average Age of Pilots USA

John M Miller

Died in June 2008 aged 102

Still flying aged 101

Physical Changes

Strength and range of movements

Posture and balance

Sleep regulation / prostate problems




Strength and Motion

Lose about 20 % of strength

Older workers can do the same tasks but they may be working closer to their maximum.

Hydraulics failure ?

Asymmetric flying ?

Loss of flexibility such as reduced neck motion

Lookout ?

Posture and Balance

More difficult to maintain good posture and balance

Solution is to pay attention to cockpit comfort and general ergonomics

Sleep Regulation

Affects both length and quality

Disruptions are frequent

& more noticeable

More affected by light and noise

Sleep Regulation


More time between extended shifts

Awareness of issue & effects of fatigue

Cockpit temperature control

Keep tasks interesting


Peripheral vision

Visual acuity both near (Presbyopia) and distance

Depth perception

Contrast sensitivity


Changes more obvious when combined with poor lighting and glare

Age and Hearing


Unable to hear higher frequencies –

Presbycusis and NIHL

Difficult to pick out one voice or sound in a noisy environment

Can affect how verbal instructions are heard

Cognitive Skills

Fluid intelligence declines inductive reasoning, selective attention, dual task activities, vigilance and information processing.

“Crystallised” intelligence, verbal tasks and vocabulary remains the same or improves.

Evidence for Age Related Pilot Performance


No good accident data to support age limit

Sudden incapacitation remains unlikely and is mitigated by presence of co-pilot

No clear relationship between age, cognitive function and pilot performance

Aerospace Medical Association

August 2004

“On viewing the existing evidence, the AMA concludes there is insufficient medical evidence to support restriction of pilot certification based on age alone”.

Current International Situation

Move from 60 y – 65 y old limits for ATPL

What Can You Do as the Flying Instructor /

Flight Examiner ?

Look for Problems with:

General Mobility






Strength & Mobility




Check For

Ability to operate controls etc during an emergency – Hydraulic failure

Ability to maintain a good lookout

Able to read instruments and charts and observe objects in conditions of glare or reduced contrast sensitivity.

Carries and uses spectacles if necessary

Able to hear your instructions and accurately interpret ATC and comms from other aircraft

Ability to multi-task, cope with emergencies and problem solve whilst performing pilot duties

The Last Resort

The Last Resort

Questions ?

Tzanfleuron Glacier

– Switzerland – 11’000 ft