Self-rated changes in cognition and piloting skills: A comparison of younger and older airline pilots

George W. Rebok, Guohua Li, Susan P. Baker, Jurek G. Grabowski, Sharon Willoughby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background. The relationship of chronological age to self-rated changes in cognition has been studied extensively. However, the relationship of these changes to age-related changes in piloting skills is not well understood. Objective: This study aims to determine whether airline pilots report age-related changes in cognitive abilities, and whether these changes are related to self-rated changes in piloting skills. Methods: A total of 1310 airline pilots (28-59 yr, mean age = 45.5 yr; mean total flight time = 11,992 h) currently employed by a major U.S. commercial air carrier participated in the study. A 13-item Aviation Experience Survey (AES) was completed by each pilot, using 5-point Likert ratings and yes/no responses comparing current cognitive abilities (e.g., concentration, reaction speed) and piloting skills (e.g., piloting in adverse weather, decision making while flying) with those of 10 yr ago. Results: Cognitive abilities and piloting skills were more likely to be rated as "better" or "much better" than 10 yr ago by pilots age 39 or under than by pilots in their 40s and 50s, who were more likely to rate their abilities and skills as "the same." Fewer than 20% of pilots in any age group rated their cognitive abilities or piloting skills as "worse" or "much worse" than 10 yr ago. Pilots who reported more anxiety or stress while flying reported more negative changes in abilities, skills, and health status regardless of age. Conclusions: Self-ratings of cognition and piloting skills vary by age, but older pilots are not more likely to report negative changes in their abilities and skills than younger pilots. Further research is needed to verify whether these self-appraisals reflect true changes in skills over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)466-471
Number of pages6
JournalAviation Space and Environmental Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2002


  • Aviation skills
  • Cognition
  • Pilot age
  • Self-rated changes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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