Conducting Flight Reviews for those with possible cognitive decline...

Discussion in 'Pilot Training' started by Redline, Feb 8, 2021.

  1. Redline

    Redline Filing Flight Plan

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    I have had a few older pilots come in for a flight review. Some are people I would trust my family with, and some are obviously not a sharp as they were in their prime, and it is beginning to show. They may still fly better than many young pilots, since they have much more flying experience and knowledge. However, some are beginning to make little mistakes. The processor slows down some for all of us. But when the cognitive decline is not extreme, how do you CFIs handle these situations? And how do some of you pilots with 50-60 years of flying experience deal with the challenges of being an older pilot?

    [I'll save my suggestions until some of you have shared your tips and perspectives. I definitely want more insight.]
     
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  2. texasclouds

    texasclouds Cleared for Takeoff

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    I’m interested in hearing more about this.

    mark - cfi(i)
     
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  3. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    My late cousin was a captain for United for many years. One of his mottoes was "Know your limitations."
     
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  4. BillTIZ

    BillTIZ Final Approach

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    As President of a flying club, more than once I had to approach the older pilot and suggest that it might be time to not fly as solo PIC. Any time he wants to fly, I would happily fly with him. After thinking about it for a couple of weeks, they normally came back with "you're right", you got time to fly today? Yes, I'll make the time. Let's go.
     
  5. Clip4

    Clip4 Final Approach

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    If you look at accident rates by age you see the trend. Part of the issue is older CFIs who are signing of their old buddy for a flight review when the standards aren’t being met. This is something the FAA needs to address in the FIRC.
     
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  6. Doc Holliday

    Doc Holliday Pattern Altitude

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    That doesn't just pertain to older pilots. How many flight reviews are performed doing a $100 hamburger run? How many flight reviews are done by the "wink wink" method by a CFI for a buddy?

    It can be addressed in a FIRC, but the responsibility still rest with the CFI performing the review.
     
  7. schmookeeg

    schmookeeg Administrator Management Council Member

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    What would "addressed in the FIRC" even look like? Add a chapter to the 2-year traffic school about "now now instructors, make sure you actually fly before signing a flight review, and consider choosing a few items from the ACS as tasks you can do instead of just flying to some fishing hole with a buddy" ??? gag.


    I get a wide mix of older pilots, but it doesn't directly correspond to cognition, or at least I haven't spotted a trend.

    When I do get someone whose gears are turning slowly, I try to emphasize checklists (instead of "from memory") and I try to get things spaced out early, say, doing GUMPs on the 45 instead of downwind abeam, to give them the extra time to respond to things and keep it going at a leisurely pace. I try to generate slow and steady routines with a lot of room in between for them to remember where they are. Of course, they may forget those routines after I leave, so I try to draw things out on ground so they get a takeaway. :D

    I make this stuff up as I go. If there is some resource or AC I've missed about training methods for the slower-thinking pilot, I'd love to drink in some new techniques and add them to my trick bag.
     
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  8. Everskyward

    Everskyward Experimenter

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    I don't have any tips, but many years ago I was asked by an older pilot to give him a FR and instrument check in his C-210. He wanted to get current because he was planning a trip to the east coast from Denver. I was in my 30s and he was probably in his mid-late 70s. I thought he was safe enough for me to sign him off for the FR, however, he was OMG scary with his instrument skills. We went out about 3 or 4 times and trouble getting vectors to the ILS of his home field, even when I was the one on the radio. No chance that he could fly a procedure on his own. He knew that he wasn't doing well and was embarrassed about it. His excuse was that he always flew with his wife, who was IR rated but couldn't get a medical. OK but... I declined signing him off. Later I heard that he went to an IFR refresher course put on by a well-known source and they signed him off. He must have made his trip to the east coast successfully (with his wife), but not too long after that (within a year or two) he passed from cancer.
     
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  9. Tools

    Tools Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I got my guidance from a friend who is legal to fly with MS. She told me it was more about the FAA believing you were capable of self grounding, basically a mentally fit for flying responsibly.

    I tailor those BFRs for what they actually do. One guy only flew his nice little Champ locally, on nice days. I knew him, knew lots of people who knew him, I was comfortable not making him brush up on his wicked cross wind landings at a tower field inside class B airspace...

    Another guy GOES EVERYWHERE. And quite frankly if I don’t sign him off he’s going anyway! So off to Madison we go on a crappy day! I don’t do this for a living. Many I fly with are more like my congregation... I keep regular tabs on them.

    In doing so I gain enough authority with them that when I do ask them to curtail this or that, they do.

    It’s kinda like the pilot/AME relationship.

    Just one method, that’s pretty limited.
     
  10. EdFred

    EdFred Taxi to Parking

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    Well, the last flight review I did wasn't on a burger run but on a guitar run. Did ground. Then I flew to Fort Wayne, each of us bought a guitar at Sweetwater. We switched seats, and I gave a flight review I would normally give, except it included an XC. Steep turns, chandelles, emergency spiral descent, diversion, power on stalls, power off stalls, turning stalls, slow flight, power off 180, 3 different types of take offs and landings, etc...

    So what's the problem with incorporating it on a flight with a purpose besides it being a FR?
     
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  11. Clip4

    Clip4 Final Approach

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    I don’t know the numbers of either, but FIRC is the method to remind many of the instructors of their responsibility.
     
  12. Doc Holliday

    Doc Holliday Pattern Altitude

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    Should someone holding a CFI certificate need to be reminded to conduct their activities IAW the regulations?
     
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  13. Daleandee

    Daleandee Cleared for Takeoff

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    I told my hangar buddy that when I can't recall the codes to the gate or the hangar door, or which airplane in the hangar is mine ... come get my keys!

    Seriously - years ago teaching ultralight students to fly I had one grand old gentleman that anyone couldn't help but love. Bill was getting old and had served his country honorably but now at a good old age he wanted to learn to fly. Sadly during training it was discovered that he would sometimes drift away and lose his attention to detail. When presented with the news that he couldn't be allowed to solo he said that he understood and expected as much.

    When our clubs would hold a three day fly-in (about 2-1/2 hours away by car and 1-1/2 by slow ultralight trainer) Bill would drive up and I would fly my two place clip wing Challenger to the field. We would always get a hotel room together. My first order of business on Saturday morning as the sun came up and the fog lifted was to put Bill in the front seat and tell him "it's your airplane, do what you like." He could really handle the airplane very well and those are still some of the most memorable flights I had when teaching ultralight flying many years ago.

    Bill passed on several years ago but I still see his Saturday morning smile as we walked to the plane to go up and as we returned after letting him fly the countryside for an hour or so!
     
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  14. midwestpa24

    midwestpa24 En-Route

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    I've been in almost that exact situation. Furthermore the pilot told me he was going on this trip IFR whether I signed off his IPC or not. I told him fine, but you aren't going with my signature in your logbook. He hadn't flown IFR in years, but it's me he was totally comfortable and competent to fly an ILS to minimums and wouldn't think twice to take off zero/zero with his wife on board.
     
  15. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner Final Approach

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    That’s way better than somebody who just sees someone once every two years...you’re able to see any regression. If you can say, “Bob, I noticed this the other day. You used to be really good at it. Should we go up and see if we can fix it?” you’re definitely in a better position that somebody who doesn’t know it’s not the norm.

    I flew professionally with my dad for 13 years before he retired at age 70. His stick skills never wavered, but his situational awareness noticeably declined. As @schmookeeg indicated, emphasis on proper use of checklists resolved most of that. Fortunately I never had to pull him out of the cockpit. Unfortunately, I think we’re having to start figuring out when we’ll need to take his car keys away.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2021
  16. jnmeade

    jnmeade Cleared for Takeoff

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    When my good friend developed brain cancer we used to go flying together and when he could no longer talk on the radio, could not in fact talk very well at all, he was still as good a stick as he ever was. Quite an interesting observation. Of course he did not fly solo. My only point was in this case, the pilot was very sharp on the mechanics of flying after his cognitive functions were in deep decline.
     
  17. wsuffa

    wsuffa Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Apparently they do. There are folks that will pencil-whip FRs, IAs that will pencil-whip annuals, and even a few AMEs that will pencil-whip medicals. And a few companies that don't care. The industry/hobby would be better off without any of them, but that's easier said than done.
     
  18. Oldmanb777

    Oldmanb777 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    It's certainly an issue. Since I am getting to the point where this may be an issue, I'm watching this thread closely. I know my driving isn't as good as it used to be. My depth perception in my peripheral vision isn't as good. I think I notice that in driving first. Then I started noticing that I my landings seem to be not what they used to be. (I used to roll them on and impress everyone regularly). That said, much of it was just plain fatigue from years of bad schedules, back side of the clock flying , accumulated jet lag, accumulated sleep depravation and constant time zone changes. So a year off, cured much of it. That said, Im not as sharp as I used to be. Vision is the one i notice the most. (I'm not doing my eye exercises like I used to do). But over all, I'm just slower, and dont; have the stamina I once had (don't tell the guys I ride dirt bikes with, they won't believe you.) But I know its true. So know your limits, and what your capable of. As a CFI, its a hard call for sure.
     
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  19. dtuuri

    dtuuri En-Route

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    Roller skating. If you're no good at one, you're no good at the other.:p
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2021
  20. Daleandee

    Daleandee Cleared for Takeoff

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    I had a DPE tell me that he likes to start his testing with steep turns. He claimed that if a pilot can correctly fly steep turns that the rest of the maneuvers will be easier.

    But I've also heard it said about skydiving ... "If at first you don't succeed, skydiving isn't for you!" :oops:
     
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  21. Everskyward

    Everskyward Experimenter

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    Steep turns were always my favorite. I had them fooled! :rofl:
     
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  22. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Touchdown! Greaser!

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    My top 5
    1. Checklists.
    2. Checklists.
    3. Checklists. A few years ago I went to an aging pilot presentation. Physician/pilot well into his 70s. His point about checklists was simple. Normal cognitive decline means developing good checklist procedures equals aviation longevity. Made sense to me and I have forced myself to get better at it.
    4. A heart-to-heart discussion of cognitive decline in older pilots. Easy enough to incorporate that, as well as an evaluation, into the ground portion, and it will show itself in flight..
    5. An up-front, pre-FR disclosure that 1-4 will be a major part of he flight review and I feel under no obligation to endorse one.
     
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  23. brcase

    brcase Pattern Altitude

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    I agree I by the time we complete the 1st 90 degrees of a steep turn I can tell if the flight review is just an opportunity to brush up on a few finer points or if we are going to have to do some work to get a pilot back up to ACS standards.

    My observation is that older pilots often fly very well, The one I told it was time to stop flying could and almost always did fly better than I did(do). I know a couple other pilots that have opted to quit flying while they could still fly very well. But as one other poster he pointed it out it was other things, like driving, hiking, bike riding where they and/or their family members were noticing times when they would get confused or disoriented. I have coached a few older pilots to watch and listen to family members and the people around them to decide when to either stop or adjust there flying to be more conservative. The people they spend their time with the most will likely be able to help them make that judgement call much better than spending a couple hours with me showing me they can still fly well and understand the regulations and concepts.

    Brian
    CFIIG/aSEL
     
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  24. noahfong

    noahfong Pre-takeoff checklist

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    If they meet "whatever" standards, what is the problem? Unless you are regarding it as more than just a flight review? If the review is conducted per FAA guidance and they demonstrate they can fly safely and have the requisite knowledge, I would sign them off. A flight review involves a snapshot of their knowledge and performance at the time. I don't believe it involves predicting how they'll be in the future and I don't think we're capable of predicting how anyone will perform in the future.
     
  25. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Touchdown! Greaser!

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    We can't, but what i bolded is the key. This does not require a crystal ball, just recognizing basic human behavior. Cognitive disability, as oppose to normal decline is going to be easy to recognize with minimal experience.
     
  26. Ed Haywood

    Ed Haywood Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Had the shoe on the other foot about 20 years ago. I owned a Decathlon with an 80 year old partner. He was a CFI with about 30,000 hours, much of that in taildraggers. He was the nicest guy in the world on the ground. But in the air he became angry at the slightest provocation, shouting and cursing at me whenever I asked a question. He was an FAA DPE for remedial tailwheel training, so he got a steady stream of students with landing mishap history. I often wondered how that went. He had a prop strike while teaching wheel landings, and he blamed the student. He had amazing stick-and-rudder skills and could probably fly by reflex alone until the day he died, but his communication skills deteriorated to the point where he should not have been teaching. Everyone is different.
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2021
  27. kontiki

    kontiki Cleared for Takeoff

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    In response to the OP, I believe believe AOPA ASI has training on aging pilots and limitations that gradually become significant. Maybe it's worth a look to see if it suggests anything.
     
  28. Southpaw

    Southpaw Pre-takeoff checklist

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    And here I am a 80 year old student pilot. I just soloed in Dec. Now have 12 hours solo , 60 plus hours total.
    Bought my C172 in Dec of 2019 after 20 hours dual in a C150.
    My goal is to fly 2 hours a week weather permitting. -25 out now and expected to be - temperatures the rest of week.
    Wifes illness and death, instructors Covid, set me a bit back on my goal. But I'm going to getter done.
    Check lists are my friend. :)
     
  29. Redline

    Redline Filing Flight Plan

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    Very impressive and inspiring!

    Once the weather gets more cooperative, if your situation permits, I would recommend trying to fly daily to make really quick progress towards becoming ready for your check ride. You retain so much more between flights if you are flying daily. If it has been a week or two since the last flight for a student, it often takes them half of the next flight lesson to get back to where they were when they got out of the plane on the previous flight.
    I bought a Cessna 172 in August of 1985 to start my flying journey. I flew almost every day, and often twice a day. 30 days after I took my first flight, I passed my private pilot check ride.
     
  30. Southpaw

    Southpaw Pre-takeoff checklist

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    That's impressive , True goal orientation indeed !

    My dad had a J-5 Piper back in the mid 40's . He sold the plane to buy a house in town . We lived in a homestead era house with no electricity , running water , indoor plumbing and a 8 mile drive to haul my older sisters and I to school.
    He sold his Piper to my Mothers brother who promptly wrecked it chasing coyotes .
    He never owned another aircraft but stayed current flying rentals till he was in his mid 70's . Just a few hours a year .
    I started lessons in 1970 and flew one hour a year for a total of 4.3 hours .
    Life sort of got in the way with family , farming , growing a land base .
    So now it's time to get it done . Grandkids have expressed an interest in flying so hopefully future generations will continue in GA.
    When in College I hung with a couple fellows who's fathers had aircraft . A tri pacer and one with a C170 and a friend with a cub. He offered to sell me the Cub for $1200 but I bought a used Buick instead . Poor choice, but happy wife. :)
     
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  31. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Awesome! Purely awesome!
     
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  32. crash7

    crash7 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I’m in the middle of a King school FIRC. Coincidentally, I just did a section on flight reviews / IPCs. There was some comments in there about doing these for a “buddy” and how we should avoid that and send them to another CFI for several reasons mentioned above.

    I don’t remember seeing that in previous FIRCs. (although I don’t remember what I had for breakfast and it’s only 7:45...)


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  33. Ed Haywood

    Ed Haywood Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Pure epic awesomeness. I hope I am you when I am 80. Sorry to hear about your wife.
     
  34. DFH65

    DFH65 Pattern Altitude

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    I flown in a B17 with an 82 year old PIC, C45 same guy. More than capable. I have flown with a few 50-60 year old guys I was glad I knew how to fly, just in case.
     
  35. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner Final Approach

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    Yup...somehow the government hasn’t figured out how to make everybody as identical as they like to believe we are.
     
  36. jsstevens

    jsstevens Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Yes. And the same goes at the other end of the age scale. I've known 13-14 year olds who I'd put behind the wheel and 18+ year olds who are not ready.

    But they have to draw the line somewhere.
     
  37. Daleandee

    Daleandee Cleared for Takeoff

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    As already seen, you have been an inspiration to many folks on the board here. I tip my hat to you and say thanks for reminding us that, if we are blessed, the dream can live on for a long time.

    Many years ago my ultralight instructor showed up at the field with a gentleman that was 93 years young. They went flying and when they got back and the young man had left my instructor said, "that man there knows about flying an airplane!" I never saw the gentleman again but it was evident that he had not yet lost what he had ...
     
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  38. Redline

    Redline Filing Flight Plan

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    This is an update to this thread I started last month. First, there have been several thoughtful suggestions that are much appreciated. I have read the literature available from AOPA, and other places that at least acknowledge the topic. As several have pointed out. The proper use of checklists becomes even more relevant.

    The initial post was a result of a gentleman I was working with who had not flown for a few years, but he still had descent stick and rudder skills, and had maintained his CFI rating. Additionally, he had attended rusty pilot training, and had prepared better than most for the flight review. He pointed out that he wanted to be be able to act as a safety pilot for some friends when they wanted to fly practice approaches during good weather.

    During the flight review process, we meet several times for ground and flying. We covered appropriate ground training beyond the minimum requirements, and after the first fight together had the talk that included a respectful approach to maintaining an appropriate safety margin as some skills decline. I highlighted the necessity of investing more in preflight preparation (including orienting yourself using things like google maps to see exactly where to find airports in relation to highways, towns, structures, rivers, etc), and the need to use checklists more religiously, along with the need to write everything down (headings, altitude assignments, squawk codes, frequencies) from ATC, and to have extensive notes available on the kneeboard in the cockpit about route, fuel, altitudes, airport runways, frequencies, etc., and wisdom in having a licensed pilot to be his copilot, to help make any flight safer and more fun.

    I explained what I needed to see in the flight that would determine if I could do the sign off for him. I believe the respectful and tactful discussions were actually well-received, and appreciated. He came very prepared (with the help of his son, who is also an instrument rated pilot), and earned the sign off for the flight review.

    Thank you for the helpful input from your posts.
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2021
  39. Ed Haywood

    Ed Haywood Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Well done, you sound like a real pro.
     
  40. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Great job - both of you!