Dennis A. Vincenzi and Mustapha Mouloua
University of Central Florida
Automation can be defined as the execution by a machine agent (usually a computer) of a function that was previously carried out by a human ( Parasuraman & Riley, 1997). The development and application of highly reliable automated systems in today's world has changed the role of the human from an active system operator to one of a passive system monitor, a role for which humans are not well suited ( Parasuraman, 1997). The introduction of automation technology in aviation systems has resulted in many benefits such as increased safety and greater fuel efficiency. Automation technology is advancing at a phenomenal rate and shows no indications of slowing across a variety of human-machine systems. While some types of failures and errors have been eliminated by automation, new types of failures and errors have been enabled ( Billings, 1997). Increased automation has resulted in several behavioral problems such as automation-induced complacency, increased workload and loss of situation awareness as evidenced by both ASRS and NTSB reports as well as numerous experimental studies
With the onset and improvement of medical technologies, the average life span of the individual has increased dramatically. The fastest growing segments in the population today are individuals over the age of 65. Currently there are 23.5 million people in the United States over the age of 65. This group has almost doubled in size since 1900. The "85 and over" group has increased in size by 17 times since 1900. This "85 and over" group is the segment of the elderly population that is responsible for the rapid growth in size of the elderly population in the United States ( Small, 1987). It is quite common for an individual to reach the age of 65 in the U.S., but to live past the age of 85 was not so common until the recent advent of improved medical science and technologies.
It is estimated that by the year 2025, approximately 20% of the U.S. population will be 65 years of age or older ( Harbin, 1991). Certain areas relevant to aging, mostly physiological in nature, have been researched quite thoroughly. One aspect of aging that is not well documented or understood is how people will react, adapt and develop with respect to cognitive ability in this new high tech automated world that is taking shape around us. Along with the development and advancement of life prolonging medical technologies, advanced electronics and automation, individuals who will be living longer must develop new skills and adapt to these new technologies that are thrust upon them.
The "Age 60" rule was placed into effect almost 40 years ago. The FAA has endorsed and supported the "Age 60" rule since its inception in 1958 even though it has no justification to do so. The "Age 60" rule does not permit pilots over the age of 60 to be in control of any commercial aircraft. This means that upon turning 60 years of age, pilots employed in commercial aviation can no longer hold the position of pilot or copilot. It is a "Catch 22" in that pilots must retire at the age of 60 regardless of physical health or past performance. When the FAA is asked questions concerning empirical evidence obtained on pilots over age