General Aviation News has recently posted an article about a subject that often does not come up in aviation blogs: Flying after 50 (especially the possible health considerations). The article quoted Dr. Jack Hastings, a member of the EAA’s Aeromedical Advisory Council, as saying that about 27% of all pilots are over the age of 50. Moreover and as we age:
Acuity decreases, while pupils get smaller and reaction slows. Our lenses become more rigid, which results in decreased contrast sensitivity. Hearing also is affected, with a loss in the higher frequencies. Impaired speech discrimination makes it hard to hear one voice in a crowded room. We begin losing muscle strength at 50, with an average loss of 33% by the age of 80, Hastings said. “Speed and coordination also decrease,” he added. Intellectually, there’s isn’t much decline until the late 60s or so.
However, it was noted that experience compensates for these losses and the secret to staying in the pilot’s seat is simple: Take care of yourself!
Taking care of yourself is not only important for older pilots, its important for younger pilots as well because altitude can effect people in poor health even more. In fact, Dr. Hastings told the story about a couple who were overtaken by hypoxia — the wife passed out at 33,000 feet while the husband passed out at 22,000 because of his health issues.
So if you want to safely stay in the pilot’s seat at any age – Take care of yourself!