DALLAS — On Wednesday, a House of Representatives committee narrowly voted to raise the mandatory commercial pilot retirement age from 65 to 67.
By a vote of 32 to 31, members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved the pilot age amendment to a proposed five-year bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) aviation safety and infrastructure programs for the next five years.
The House committee unanimously approved the roughly 800-page FAA bill by a vote of 63-0. It is expected that the entire House will vote on it next month.
After medical reports revealed that age had an “insignificant impact” on commercial pilots’ ability to do their jobs, the retirement age was raised from 60 to 65 in 2007. However, critics argue that delaying retirement may result in future logistical issues.
Apart from the retirement age amendment proposal, the House bill would prohibit airlines from charging family seating fees, but it would not mandate minimum seat sizes or impose new rules to compensate passengers for delays.
Supporters and Opponents of the Bill: A Closer Look
The new pilot age proposal faces union opposition and an uncertain fate in the US Senate, which will today consider the proposed version of the FAA measure, though it does not currently include the pilot age increase.
The Regional Airline Association (RAA) applauded the pilot age increase, noting that 324 airports have lost a third of their air service on average, with more than 400 planes parked due to a pilot shortage. “Raising the pilot retirement age keeps experienced pilots — particularly, captains — in place,” Reuters quotes RAA.
Republican Representative Troy Nehls echoed the sentiment, adding that “while commercial airline pilots are currently mandated to retire at 65, these same pilots that are forced to retire can still fly corporate and charter jets beyond the age of 65.”
US News quoted Senator Lindsey Graham recalling the 2007 pilot mandatory retirement age rise from 60 to 65 and that “the sky did not fall.”
However, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) is opposed to raising the retirement age, claiming that it would disrupt airline scheduling and pilot training and necessitate the reopening of pilot contracts.
Even if the proposal is approved, ALPA pointed out that international rules would still prohibit pilots over the age of 65 from flying in most countries other than the US.
It is also with noting that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg opposes raising the retirement age for pilots.
While International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) lacks the legislative muscle to overturn national aviation authorities’ policies, it does state that the standard set for its 193 member nations “limits the privileges for pilots in single-pilot commercial air transport operations to 60 years of age while extending that limit to 65 years of age for multi-pilot operations.”
ICAO notes that member states may authorize pilots to fly in their airspace after reaching the age of 60 or 65, as applicable, meaning implementation is at the discretion of each individual Civil Aviation Authority.
However, while the UN aviation body requires an annual medical examination for pilots under the age of 60 who are involved in two-pilot operations, a six-monthly medical examination is required for those over 60 to ensure that older pilots remain fit to fly.
Do you agree with the pilot retirement age increase? Be sure to leave your comments on our social media channels.
Featured image: American Airlines pilots at MIA. Photo: Brandon Wade/American Airlines