Delaying Pilots' Final Descent

This column was written by CBS News Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.
Some years ago, I was flying from New York to Paris. It was a particularly harrowing flight. Not just bumpy, but that kind of plane-rattling-noisy, drink-flying, roller-coaster-from-hell kind of flight that really makes you wonder if you are going to make it.

By chance I happened to run into the pilot once we were on the ground, and I thanked him profusely for his steady hand and expertise. I said, "I'm sure glad there was a guy with gray hair up front." He said, "Thanks, but you know this was my last flight." He was just days short of his 60th birthday.

The FAA regulation that took him out of the cockpit dates back to the Boeing 707, a plane you never even see anymore. So we were pleased to learn this week that age limit is being bumped up to 65.

You should know that nowadays computers do almost all of the flying on commercial flights. Still, when trouble does come, it's reassuring to me that the man or woman up front has been there and done that.

Harry's daily commentary can be heard on many CBS Radio News affiliates across the country.

By Harry Smith