U.S. House-Approved FAA Budget Bill Includes Pilot Retirement Provision

September 24, 2007 (PLANSPONSOR.COM) - The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a sweeping aviation reform legislative measure that also raises the commercial pilot retirement age from 60 to 65.

Also included in the bill was authority for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to spend $68 billion over four years upgrading the nation’s ailing air traffic control system and airports, according to a Chicago Tribune news story.

Inclusion of the mandatory pilot retirement age provision represents a major victory for groups representing pilots who have been battling to be allowed to continue flying into their 60s, arguing that the public’s safety can be maintained while still allowing airlines to retain their aviation experience.

According to the newspaper, a Senate companion bill also includes a provision raising pilots’ retirement age. However, the measure is a long way from becoming law, despite the 267 to 161 House vote, which is less than the two-thirds majority necessary to override a threatened presidential veto, the news report said.

“We’re over another hurdle and on to the next hurdle,” said Paul Emens, 59, a Southwest Airlines captain who is chairman of Airline Pilots Against Age Discrimination, which advocates changing the retirement age for pilots.

After decades supporting a rule requiring commercial airline pilots to retire by their 60th birthday, the FAA earlier this year signaled that it now supports raising the retirement age to 65, the standard adopted by the authority that sets rules for international aviation  (See  FAA Chief Releases Pilot Retirement Change Proposal ).   

Also fighting the measure are pilots reaching retirement age at carriers like American Airlines, which avoided bankruptcy and preserved its employees pensions. Those counting on retiring at age 60 don’t want to see their benefits reduced.

Others contend that pilots in their 60s aren’t able to rebound from jet lag and fatigue as easily as younger colleagues.

“For us, it’s a no-brainer,” Gregg Overman, spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, an independent union that represents American Airline pilots, told the Tribune. “As far as we’re concerned, age 60 should continue to serve as a highly effective safety regulation.”