'Contentious' Issue Splits Committee
The volatile question of
whether to raise the mandatory retirement age for airline pilots,
from 60 to 65, gridlocked the committee named by the FAA to
investigate the matter.
Bloomberg reports the panel disbanded at the end of November
without a formal recommendation to the FAA.
As Aero-News reported, FAA
Administrator Marion Blakey convened the panel in September, in
response to lawmakers and pilots calling on the agency to adopt the
same standard as the International Civil Aviation Organization.
"The age 60 issue remains contentious for the commercial
aviation industry," wrote the panelists, who included airline
representatives and pilot union leaders. Instead of a consensus
opinion, their report devoted roughly equal amounts of space to
each side's argument.
In favor of adopting the new ICAO standards -- which went into
effect November 23, and allow pilots between the ages of 60-65 to
fly as long as long as the other pilot is less than 60 -- were
representatives from Southwest Airlines, JetBlue Airways, the
Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, and a group known as Airline
Pilots Against Age Discrimination.
Six panel members voted against raising the age -- including
four representatives of the Air Line Pilots Association. Panelists
from American Airlines, and its Allied Pilots Association, also
opposed changing the current laws.
Not surprisingly, how any one
pilot feels about the issue generally depends on their age. Older
pilots want to work longer, to make up for some of the benefits
they've lost as airlines struggled financially. Younger pilots --
those near the bottom of their airlines' seniority lists -- oppose
the rule, as they're looking for new opportunities.
The co-chairs of the committee -- Air Transport Association
president James May, and Air Line Pilots Association president
Duane Woerth -- declined to endorse either position. A
representative of the Aerospace Medical Association filed a
separate opinion stating "age should not be the sole criterion" for
forcing airline pilots to retire.
The group achieved consensus on one point: that if the FAA
decides to change the mandatory retirement age, it should not do so
retroactively. "Any element of retroactivity would add more
complexity to the issue and make it almost impossible for any
agreement on implementation," according to the report.
"This breaks down along some predictable lines," said William
Voss, chief executive officer of the Flight Safety Foundation.
"This isn't going to help Marion Blakey very much."
The FAA is reviewing the report now, before issuing its say on