about Robbins's days at Harvard and a speech by Philip Handler on Robbins's scientific and medical contributions.9
As Robbins settled in as head of the IOM, he administered a series of projects that began in the Hamburg era and came to a conclusion during his presidency. The situation resembled that of the new head of a Hollywood studio, who had first to market his predecessor's films before he could promote his own. Robbins found a backlist of at least five projects that, in a manner typical of the Institute of Medicine, covered a wide range of subjects.
Some, such as the airline pilot study, were narrow in focus yet of vital interest to the groups involved. The study stemmed from a controversy that had arisen over a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rule prohibiting commercial aviation carriers from allowing anyone over 60 to pilot or copilot a plane. As the generation of pilots trained in World War II and Korea aged, they began to feel that the FAA rule was discriminatory and unnecessary. They formed groups such as the Pilots' Rights Association and petitioned Congress to pressure the FAA to change the rule. Congress responded, as it did in many controversial situations, by calling for a study of the matter.10 At the beginning of 1980, Donald Fredrickson, the head of NIH, contacted David Hamburg about having the IOM do the congressionally mandated study. Although the IOM Council reacted with enthusiasm, it took many months for federal officials to decide if they wanted to enter into a contract with the IOM or whether they preferred to do the study in-house. Not until June was a contract signed and a study group appointed. The IOM panel would confine itself to objective medical findings on the subject of pilot performance and age, and the National Institute of Aging would use the data as part of its formal response to Congress. 11
The IOM decided to form a series of task forces to examine the effects of aging on various bodily systems, for example, one that focused on the cardiovascular system. The group made site visits to places such as the American Airlines Flight Academy in Dallas, Texas, where it hoped to acquire a sense of the physical skills involved in flying a plane. The final report, a product of the IOM's Division of Health Sciences Policy and a steering committee headed by Robert F. Murray, chief of the Division of Medical Genetics at Howard, appeared in 1981, about five months after Fred Robbins's inauguration.