Older Pilots Rejoice; Younger Pilots Stew
Some may find it hard to drive 55...
but airline pilots may now fly up to 65. Thursday evening,
President Bush signed legislation officially raising the mandatory
retirement age for commercial pilots to 65 from 60, bringing US
standards in line with those of the International Civil Aviation
As ANN reported, legislative
action on the measure stalled for months in the halls of Congress,
as it was tied to the broader FAA Reauthorization bill. This week,
Minnesota Congressman James Oberstar pulled the legislation from
that bill, and it sped quickly through the House of Representatives
and the Senate as the separate "Fair Treatment for Experienced
The bill brings an end to controversy that has smoldered for 47
years, since the newly-formed FAA set the age of 60 as the
mandatory commercial pilot retirement age in 1960. And for some
pilots, it comes not a moment too soon.
"I have two very close friends who retire tomorrow," Southwest
Airlines Captain Paul Emens, 59, told The Chicago Tribune Thursday.
"That makes me highly motivated: trying to save the jobs of people
Under the bill, pilots who choose to fly commercially past age
60 need to have their medical certificates renewed every six
months, and submit to a line check twice a year. They'll also need
to participate in additional training and qualification
Flights departing US airports for foreign destinations would
require at least one pilot under the age of 60, if a pilot between
60-65 is also part of the flight crew.
Pilots who celebrate their 60th birthdays before Age 65 went
into effect are out of luck, as airlines aren't be required to hire
them back. If they want to keep flying, those pilots will need to
reapply for their jobs, and start at the bottom of the seniority
scale... a provision that all-but guarantees those pilots will opt
to seek employment elsewhere.
"I'd have to go back as a junior first officer on a 737, which I
haven't flown in 18 or 20 years," retired Continental pilot Marty
Noonan said. He's now flying Boeing 777s for India's Jet Airways
The legislation also allows older pilots, for airlines who
scrapped their pension plans in bankruptcy, five more years to try
to recoup their losses. Previously, pilots forced to retire at 60
were denied many retirement benefits, due to a rule by the Pension
Benefit Guaranty Corp. -- which assumed the pensions for Delta and
United -- that cut retirement benefits for those who leave the
workforce before age 65.
Not everyone is a fan of the new law. Younger pilots, who had
planned to move up the seniority ranks as older pilots retired,
will now have to wait five more years for those slots to open.
"It means five years of stagnation for those who expected to
move on when older people retired," noted aviation consultant