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Good news! Age and expertise is an advantage, particularly for pilots!

July 15, 2010

Good news for PILOTS aged 40-69 years: good news for competency versus age.

Over a 3-year period, 118 general aviation pilots aged 40 to 69 years were tested annually, in which their flight performance in the simulator was scored in terms of

  1. Executing air-traffic controller communications
  2. Traffic avoidance
  3. Scanning cockpit instruments
  4. Executing an approach to landing and
  5. A flight summary score.


  • Expert pilots had better flight summary scores at baseline
  • Expert pilots showed less decline over time.

Secondary analyses revealed that

  • Expertise effects were most evident in the accuracy of providing aviation communications
  • Communication was the measure on which performance declined most sharply over time.

Regarding age, even though older pilots initially performed worse than younger pilots, over time older pilots showed less decline in flight summary scores than younger pilots. Secondary analyses revealed that the oldest pilots did well over time because their traffic avoidance performance improved more vs younger pilots.

GENERAL CONCLUSIONS: Prior experience and specialized expertise provides a great advantage for older adults’ skilled cognitive performance.

What is your special expertise? Individuals show superior memory performance in their domains of expertise.

If you haven’t  developed a particular expertise yet, start now. Individuals show superior memory performance in their domains of expertise, be it Bridge, computers, dancing, various areas of professional specialization or whatever.(In Australia we say”He’s a full bottle on that!”)

In the meantime keep your brain vital in the Posit Science simulator or other program of your choice: sharpen your perception and attention, listening, seeing, and remembering.  Keep in the aerobic exercise mode, and find mental challenges you enjoy.

Read about the research study (2007) in Neurology .

Read my other posts about training pilots here and here

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