July 1, 2008
I read Barry Schiff’s excellent article (“ Proficient Pilot: Time Marches On,” May AOPA Pilot) regarding the challenges of time on the day of my sixty-fourth birthday, precisely 50 years after I began flying lessons at the age of 14, and five months after purchasing a new Cessna T182T from Janie and Sarah Oberman at the exceptional Camarillo, California, FBO cited in his article. I became aware of their policy (certainly mandated by insurance/liability restrictions) that requires an instructor to be on-board rental airplanes after the pilot’s age of 75, when my very capable former airplane partner stopped flying rental airplanes for exactly that reason.
Furthermore, having served as an internal medicine physician in Santa Barbara for more than 30 years, it has always seemed ironic to me that an arbitrary age be established where competence becomes questionable and where skills become suspect, since there are so many exceptions to any age rule that would limit flying. Such a wide age-mandated restrictive net is especially ludicrous since there are such simple tests available to any aviation physician for the purpose of establishing cognitive competence and reflex skills—these tests could easily be added to our medical certification examinations and would allow those pilots beyond age 75 who are talented and competent to continue with their time in the sky.
As our knowledge of the aging process continues to expand, and as our ability to test mental ability becomes more finely honed, we should as a society move beyond such strict age-related limitations that so inappropriately remove perfectly good pilots from their aviation calling.
Barry Schiff’s lament about having to retire from TWA at age 60 got no sympathy from this member. Let’s see—he was hired at age 26 and had a 34-year career with TWA. Since he was hired in 1964 at the beginning of the airline hiring boom, he likely spent most of his career as captain, in the top income bracket. I was also a TWA pilot but I was hired in 1967 just as the hiring boom ended. Being on the tail end of the TWA seniority list, I spent most of my career in a supporting role and might never have made captain but for the age-60 rule. I wasn’t alone in believing that it was no great sacrifice for someone who had spent decades as captain to retire with honor at age 60.
Thank you for addressing a situation that I think will limit flying for many private pilots, myself being one (“ Pilot Counsel: More On Liability Release Forms,” May AOPA Pilot). Up until about two years ago I was able to obtain insurance on my aircraft at what is known as “$1 million smooth,” and, as you know, this would cover passengers as well as my aircraft and myself regarding liability coverage. Recently I am not able to obtain passenger coverage higher than $250,000 on passengers, even though I have coverage at $1 million on everything else.
I am a private pilot with more than 1,300 accident- and violation-free hours but now find that unless I want to fly by myself, I must take the risk of losing everything that I spent a lifetime working for, and I’m not willing to do that, so, my aircraft is for sale. I think that most pilots are responsible, and financially responsible, people and when they find out that their policy only covers them, their aircraft, and not the passenger, other than the $1 million limit normally stated, they will and are going to be inclined to not take the risk of losing everything.
What we really need is a company that will take a stand and write the liability policies we need. Until this happens fighting user fees is like fighting for a deck chair on the Titanic, it won’t really make a difference if we lose thousands of private pilots like me. Thanks again for your article, now let’s go the rest of the way and find a solution to the problem.
Thielert diesel engine specs look incredibly good (“ Airframe and Powerplant: The New Powerplants,” May AOPA Pilot). Steven W. Ells did a great job of covering Thielert products and their merits. However, as a company, Thielert Motors looks downright scary. Was there no whiff of this scandal at Thielert when this article was written?
Steven W. Ells writes: Other people may have known about Thielert’s financial difficulties, but neither myself nor any of the other editors had heard of any problems when the magazine went to press. Feature articles such as this are often written months before they are published; print magazines are wrapped up weeks before they actually appear in your mailbox. The first time any of us heard anything about this was at Sun ’n Fun in late April and it was too late to change the article. I think the engine is sound, but its future is uncertain.
I enjoyed Paul J. Richfield’s article on the Cirrus SR20-G3 so much that I bought one ( Cirrus SR20-G3: Reaching Maturity,” May AOPA Pilot). I will be taking delivery of my GTS bird in July.
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