Are You Just Too Old?  Is That Your Excuse For The Mistakes You Make While Flying?



Are You Just Too Old?  Is That Your Excuse For The Mistakes You Make While Flying?

By JAMES E. (Jim) TRUSTY      Email Lrn2Fly@Bellsouth.Net


When you have mental lapses while in pursuit of your aviation dreams, do you quickly think of an excuse, like your age, to get you off the hook?  If age is truly the problem, why didnít you do something stupid yesterday?  Why didnít the FAA Doc catch it at exam time?  What would make you become dumb and unsafe overnight?  Have you known this was slipping up on you for some time and just refused to accept the fact that some of your senses are slowing down?  Or have you been telling yourself that time will cure it? 

Just how old would you be if you didnít know how old you were? 

The one thing that we can control is our mind, and we will always be the first to know if we are losing control of it.  No part of our medical examination will open any doors into that area.  We know when we begin to have trouble in flying, navigation, takeoffs and landings, and we are the first to know when it is time to hang it up.  We know when we are not current and that it could lead to not only hurting someone else but quite possibly causing our own accidental death.   


It doesnít make any difference what you used to be able to do, if that airplane is getting ahead of your thinking, youíre in trouble! It is up to us as the pilot in command to control those urges to keep aviating long after we should have bought a motorcycle.  I talk with half a dozen pilots daily who have already stopped staying current, getting medicals, renewing their Certificated Flight Instructor ticket, and doing those mandatory things that make us feel safe in our own bird, on the ground and in the air.  They still want to be called pilots and to spend time with the other hangar rats at the airport. 

That is all fine and dandy but when they tell me what happened on their last flight and the mistakes they made, itís scary.  As a friend and flight instructor, I feel very comfortable in telling them that they need to take a close look at hanging it up.  I donít do this as someone who is so much better than they are in the air.  I do it as a friend and fellow pilot who is right in the middle of their age group.  You can equate not flying to not driving.  It is hard to give up something that you have spent a lifetime getting good at, and in some cases it is our only claim to fame. 

We never want to think that in the future we might lose control of our blood pressure, heart rhythm, weight, hair color, vision, hearing, and about 17 other functions, unless one day we find ourselves no longer able to make our body rise to the occasion and function as it once did.  We need to realize that if any one part of our total body makeup is losing its grip, other parts are not getting any better.  Compensating for a loss is hard to do and even harder to recognize and accept.  Iím not asking you to make any fast moves of correction but to take a look at what your mind says was a stupid incident in the flight you took when you and I both know that it came close to being an accident. 

There is no easy cure for what you are experiencing.  In fact, we knew it was inevitable.  What is so hard to accept is that it is happening to us.  We knew that some of our friends would get old and have trouble hanging in there, but us?  Iím sorry to have to say this but the only way to beat the ravages of old age is to die young.  Few will opt for this remedy, almost none willingly. 

Flying less may be an advantage to your billfold during these weird financial times with the cost of airplanes going up and insurance and hangars at the very top of their cost index.  And donít forget fuel which is hovering in the $5.00 range for general aviation and even higher if you fly a big one.  This is something else to add to the stop/go equation for your flying future, or not.  I didnít want to mention money to a pilot because that is the last thing most of us are willing to discuss, since we are all rich and handsome. 

But you can still stay healthy, get good glasses, exercise, eat better, do everything slower and more carefully, fly tandem with your buddies and family, take fewer long, tiring trips, do less night flying, and have short talks with yourself when an emergency situation arises.  No one knows your limitations better than you.  We want you to stay in aviation, at some level, and enjoy whatever it is that you select to do.  We just donít want you to get hurt or to hurt someone else. 

Iíll just bet there is an old flight instructor at your airport who would just love to go flying with you on a regular basis, and at a reduced rate too.  I know this is true at my airport because I do it almost daily and gladly so.  Whatever you decide to do, give the final decision some serious thought because having a crash, an accident, or an incident at any age is neither fun nor rewarding.  I know that you don't always agree with my advice, but you don't want to end up being dead wrong.   

I am always here if you have questions, comments or thoughts on this article and subject matter.  And if you want to go flying, cheap, Iím ready! 

Written permission from the author required to reprint this copyrighted article (2009). 

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