Congress could raise retirement age for commercial pilots to 67

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The three largest airline pilot unions in the country have expressed concerns about a reauthorization of Federal Aviation Administration Act, which has provisions changing training standards and raising the mandatory retirement age for commercial pilots from 65 to 67. The use of certain types of simulator training time would count as flight hours for first officers.

In an open letter to President Joe Biden and Congress, Allied Pilots Association, Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), and Southwest Airlines Pilots Association said that such changes could compromise safety standards in the aviation industry.

“Today’s requirements are the product of the collaborative efforts of the FAA and a cross-section of aviation industry subject-matter experts that have served the airline industry and the traveling public well for more than a decade and should not be relaxed. Similarly, the current 65 mandatory retirement age for commercial airline pilots is supported by data and conforms with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards. Those advocating for raising the retirement age have not produced sufficient data relating to the safety implications of such a change,” the letter said.

The bipartisan legislation was introduced by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO), Committee Ranking Member Rick Larsen (D-WA), Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Garret Graves (R-LA), and Aviation Subcommittee Ranking Member Steve Cohen (D-TN).

The sponsors of the bill says it does several important things, including streamlining the regulatory process and improving training standards.

But the unions say that there is no actual pilot shortage and that the plan to create short-term “certificates” that churn out pilot certificates rather than creating the best possible pilot is shortsighted.

“Some lawmakers are interested in increasing the pilot retirement age from 65 to 67 to solve the fake pilot shortage. This so-called ‘fix’ would not increase pilot numbers, nor would it address flight delays and cancellations. It would, however, introduce additional risks into the system,” the Air Line Pilots Association letter said.

However, the list of those organizations supporting the bill is long. Air clubs supporting the bill include the Alaska Airmen’s Association, representing 2,000 members in a state that has more licensed pilots per capita than any other state.

The last FAA reauthorization was passed in 2018 and lasted five years. Congress must pass a new reauthorization bill before the current law expires on Sept. 30.

The Senate is working on its own version of an FAA reauthorization bill but both the House and Senate are in recess until after Labor Day weekend, Sept. 5, as members head back to their districts for August.

22 COMMENTS

  1. Flying is a very demanding job on the human body, and it would be a terrible mistake to increase the retirement age even more.

    • I’ve been a pilot for over 50 years and what you are saying
      is pure bull. Driving a 18 wheeler is more to your point.
      The big difference between a pilot and a passenger is
      that a pilot has to take off and land the airplane. I think
      there should be no age limit, but rigorous flight tests
      for pilots over the age of 67.

      • BN is right. Statistics are a useful tool in a population of say, nuts and bolts, or herring, or any population in which the samples have very consistent features. The problem with applying statistics to pilots is every one is unique. Even though the average 50-yr old pilot is statistically more fit to fly than the average 70-yr old pilot, it would be easy to find a particular 70-yr old pilot more healthy and fit than a particular 50-yr old pilot. The determinate of fitness should be similar to that for commercial truck drivers. That is, they must pass annual physical/medical exams. A pre-determined, cut-off age across the entire population is not logical. The influence of unions will be strictly in their economic interest but cloaked in phony safety concerns or whatever.

    • Airlines pilots are already required to pass a physical every six months once they turn 40 (annually if under 40). If a pilot can pass the physical, he should be able to fly.

  2. Mmmmmmm, so now we get geriatric clot shotted pilots who are grumpy about having to work until 67, sounds safe. I wonder what amount of this is a result of forced diversity hiring quotas not fulfilled.

  3. Any pilot that wants to continue at that age did not plan well. The kid in the right seat might be able to handle it when he has his stroke or heart attack. But there is no reason for this. No shortage at that pay grade. Go to the golf course, it was a good ride. Have your heart attack in your 180.

  4. This is what happens. Boomers your generation neglected to see to it your grown adults kids and your neighbors grown adult kids know how to work and stay put in a job, so even for airlines there less trained pilots to relieve the experienced ones wanting to retire. Gen-X and millennials who got teens today you’re next to find out what boomers are finding out about being short staffed. If todays parents of teens 15 years and older are smarter you’ll get your teen learning the discipline to hold down a job today starting them at the McDonalds since it gives 15-17 year olds a break to gain work experience if one has discipline. I wonder how many young men studied aviation to pilot and graduated then because of lack of discipline he quit after a short stint working for a commercial airline, students should be working at a place like McDonald’s or a hotel while studying. The discipline is built for their future career so they can stay in one employment for 25-30 years.

    • Yes, Jen, but now our congresswoman wants to unionize those teenagers for these first jobs. I started working at 14 at a fast food place and finished as a respected aviator with 30,000 hours of “safe” flying 45 years later. Now I own a small business that I can’t find enough good help to operate at any pay. Generation Covid. The government pays people to be on drugs.

  5. Only significant change between a 65 year old man and a 67 year old man is a slight increase in the paunch and a measurable loss of muscle mass in the extremities BUT NO LOSS IN MENTAL ABILITIES OR COGNITION. At age 74 I have less muscle mass, tire more easily BUT I AM A MUCH SAFER DRIVER BECAUSE I AM NO LONGER IN A BIG HURRY AND REALIZE THERE IS MUCH MORE AT STAKE IF AN ACCIDENT SHOULD EVER OCCURR !!

    • I would bet you are. But when you have the big one, do you want to bring your passengers with you? I am old and capable as well and can pass a medical if not for my history. My stroke did not have indicators. Thankfully it didn’t occur in the cockpit..we all get old. Shoot craps? My hero was the 85 year old that we used to drop off at his remote bush property for extended periods . Alone. Tough, smart, but had a heart attack. Alone. Respected that.

  6. They may have to since the GOP killed bringing back pilots fired over Covid.

    Don’t see any reason a pilot can’t keep flying past 65 as long as they pass health and cognition tests.

  7. Hey! Here’s an idea… MANDATORY retirement for politicians at 70. If you can’t fly a plane of 200 you can’t fly a nation of 350 million.

    • I like your thinking. We could always subject them to cognitive testing. But then who would administer the tests? And what would be the standard they have to meet? Average voter levels?!

  8. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the median U.S. pilot salary at $211,790 in 2022. This means 50% of pilots earn more than this, and 50% earn less. However, there are pilots working for major airlines making more than $700,000 per year.

    I shoulda been a commercial pilot.

  9. Pilots who are under 67 years old, keep their bodies and minds in good shape, pass physical exams, and still want to fly……should be able to continue flying. Passengers always appreciate having lots of experience in the cockpit.

  10. I personally feel it would benefit the country more to establish a mandatory retirement age of 65 for Congressmen and Senators than to inflict one on anyone engaged in private enterprise. Have you looked closely at Dianne Feinstein, Mitch McConnell, Maxine Waters and Nancy Pelosi lately? These are the people making decisions on who might be too old to perform???

    • I like this SkyTrooper . Maybe test them for drugs as well . Would you want one of these old folks flying your plane ? No they’d be retired at 65 . Looks now like they are steering the ship off the proverbial cliff and some are closer to 90 !

  11. Probably way safer to put a 70 year old pilot in left seat of a commercial jet than a pilot that has never driven a car in the right seat of commercial jet and in that’s position because of hiring quotas . The government has turned airports into medium security prisons complete with razor wire and has limited all access to small planes . The days of walking up to look at plane are nearly over . Still can at some big airports in Alaska , but don’t worry it’ll get walled off . Interesting to note that most age forced retired pilots go on and fly private jets . Seems kind of odd that they can fly a private jet and it’s safe , but not safe to fly commercially. I see no difference in what they fly . It’s all the same . Pilot flys the plane and it does not matter how many souls are in the back . These 65 plus pilots still have to do the same proficiency checks and maintain their health . It’s funny to note that after Covid the FAA flight Surgeon widened the EKG parameters for some reason? In the last 30 years a lot of commercial pilots were disqualified for EKG problems . Now not a problem , this may be more concerning ?

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