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"Pilots in their 80s, 90s challenge stereotypes"

Monday, October 17, 2005

Pilots in their 80s, 90s challenge stereotypes 

More and more pilots are flying past 80, Federal Aviation Administration
statistics show, a trend that has inspired a national study of their safety
records in the hope of challenging insurance industry practices that
penalize older pilots with higher premiums.

More than 3,800 of the nation's roughly 618,000 licensed pilots have reached
80, according to FAA reports.

The 80-and-over category has jumped 73% during the past five years, even as
the total number of pilot certificates has declined.

Like America's drivers, general aviation pilots face no age limits.

As long as a pilot can pass an annual or biannual physical, they can fly
solo. Even without the physical, pilots can still get behind the controls if
there is another medically certified pilot in the cockpit.

"People our age were supposed to sit in rocking chairs," said Herbert
Sloane, a 91-year-old pilot from Alabama who is the secretary and treasurer
of the 531-member United Flying Octogenarians.

But the growing number of older pilots is attributed to "men taking better
care of themselves and insisting on doing things that, a few years ago, were
denied them," he said.

Sloane has been helping the national Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
gather information for a study on the safety records of pilots 80 and older.

Of 125 pilots surveyed so far, he said, four aircraft incidents have been
reported that could be considered age-related.


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