Average Pilot Age Increasing -- Accidents, Too
Statistics compiled by The Associated Press suggest that the older you are, the harder you'll fall. The news gathering organization pored over FAA and NTSB records and determined that pilots older than 50 have a significantly greater chance of crashing than younger pilots. The stats perhaps take on even greater significance considering the fact that the average age of pilots is now 47. The AP report also found that the accident rate went up with age, and that those in their 60s were at a roughly proportional greater risk of crashing. Older pilots were also in more fatal accidents. The AP undertook the research after what it described as "a rash of plane crashes involving older pilots in Southern California." Just how many crashes constitute "a rash," the news service didn't say. However, several of the accidents attracted significant media coverage, particularly one on July 7, 2004, in which a Harmon Rocket plunged through the roof of a house in Seal Beach, Calif., with 62-year-old Ross Anderson, an ex-Navy pilot, in the cockpit. Friends insist Anderson must have been incapacitated before the crash. "The way the accident happened, there was no way he was at the controls," David Hallmark told the AP. "There's no way with his experience that he would've done what the airplane was doing." Occupants of the house escaped serious injury but the house was destroyed and legal wrangling has prevented reconstruction.
Crash Statistics, From The Associated Press
According to the AP's research, pilots older than 50 were involved in 55.8 percent of accidents over a five-year period even though they constitute only 36.8 percent of certificated pilots. And, apparently, the older a pilot gets, the greater the risk. Pilots between the ages of 50 and 59 had 26.4 percent of accidents, marginally higher than their percentage of the pilot population, which is about 22.1 percent, but those 60 and older had 23.6 percent of accidents even though they make up only 14.7 percent of certificated pilots. The research also determined that those under 50 consistently had proportionately fewer accidents throughout the five-year sample period. To its credit, the AP asked experts if its findings had any sort of real-world merit. According to the experts they consulted, the methodology was "simple but sound." However, it should be pointed out that any number of factors, including pilot experience (complacency?), history (old, bold pilots?) and aircraft type (higher income equals higher performance, equals higher impact speed?) were not factored into the research and may have influenced the results.
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