Age-Related Pilot Cognition and Working Memory
Unlike commercial airline pilots who are restricted by the Federal Aviation Association’s (FAA) ‘age 65’ rule, no age limit is defined in general aviation (GA) and in the USA, the GA pilot population is getting older (Air Safety Institute, n.d.; Clause, Dehais, Arexis, & Pastor, 2011; Hardy & Parasuraman, 1997). The complexity of aircraft navigation ensures time-pressured actions; affected by various factors as expertise level and cognitive
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In this study, older and young GA pilots had to make certain decision on hallway and ingoing holding patterns whereas accomplishing defined flight control in cloudy weather situations (Schriver, Morrow, Wickens & Talleur, 2008). Albeit there is plenty of literature on the broad subject of elderly and decision making, aircraft navigation as well as decision making places stresses on aging aviators due to an amalgamation of time-pressures, attentional requirements, and safety concerns (Air Safety Institute, n.d.; Kennedy et al, 2010). Likewise, Hardy and Parasuraman (1997) state that, “Because cognition plays an increasingly larger role in the piloting of modem aircraft, understanding the impact of age-related changes in cognition on pilot performance becomes correspondingly more important” (p.314).
Cognitive Aging and Working Memory
When older pilots make poor decisions, it may be partly due to age-related decreases in cognitive potentials important for airplane navigation, for example speed of information processing, attention, and working memory, particularly in the presence of distraction or interference . Consequently, “pilots have cited workload as one of the most important reasons for employing automation” (Muthard & Wickens, 2008, p. 2). Respectively, other widely voiced problems with older pilots are about variations in cognitive potential—reduced capacity to stay ahead of the plane,