Some aviation insurance underwriters are surcharging older pilots. Is that fair? Is it justified by the accident experience?
"AOPA is launching our Aging Pilot study, a three-pronged effort to answer those questions and more," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Utilizing the extensive research resources of both AOPA and the AOPA Air Safety Foundation as well as expertise from a qualified third-party source, we intend to find out what kinds of accidents older pilots are having, what causes them, and what actually happens to pilots' skills as they age.
"This study is extraordinarily important to pilots, because the answers could very well affect general aviation safety and the cost of flying for everyone - something that members constantly tell us is a primary concern," Boyer said.
Today, some companies are adding escalating surcharges for pilots over 60. One company, for example, charges 30 percent above its base rate for an age 70 pilot, 95 percent for age 75, and a whopping 160 percent for an octogenarian aviator. Some companies won't even issue a new policy for an older pilot.
AOPA will begin by looking at insurance claims for older pilots. What kinds of incidents or accidents are they experiencing? What's the ratio of "fender benders" to more serious claims?
Next, the study will probe the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's extensive accident database, looking for the causes of accidents involving older pilots.
Finally, AOPA will engage an independent research organization to evaluate what happens to the cognitive and neuro-muscular skills of pilots as they age. Can the changes be predicted? Can these skills be easily measured? What kinds of mitigating measures can be taken to accommodate and compensate for the changing skills of pilots as they age?
"Currently, there is no hard, scientific data to justify the way some insurance companies are treating older pilots," said Boyer. "We're going to find the truth.
"And when we do, we'll report it - regardless of the outcome. This affects all of us. And we're all getting older."
March 17, 2005