About Time: FAA Proposes Change to Pilot Age Limit

“The Federal Aviation Administration has proposed raising the retirement age for commercial pilots from 60 to 65, a decision that could help older pilots cope with diminished salaries and retirement benefits, but would slow career advancement for younger pilots.

Marion Blakey, the FAA’s administrator, said Tuesday that his proposal would allow commercial pilots to fly who are older than age 60, as long as the other pilot on the flight deck is 59 or younger. That matches a rule put in place last year by the International Civil Aviation Organization. While that provision does not affect U.S.-based pilots, it would allow foreign pilots older than 60 to fly into the United States.

“A pilot’s experience counts, it’s an added margin of safety,” Blakey said in a statement. “Foreign airlines have demonstrated that experienced pilots in good health can fly beyond age 60 without compromising safety.”

Raising pilot retirement age has been a contentious issue for several years. Many pilot groups, including the Allied Pilots Association, which represents American Airlines pilots, have opposed the idea. Others, however, including the union for Southwest Airlines pilots, have lobbied in favor of a change.

The decision isn’t final. The FAA will publish its proposal in coming months, and then will accept public comments before deciding whether to implement the age change.

The retirement age dates to 1959, and was implemented in part because of a strike at Fort Worth-based American. The airline had established a mandatory retirement at age 60, and three pilots brought a grievance against the airline after they were forced to retire. C.R. Smith, the airline’s founder and chief executive, refused to reinstate them, which sparked a 21-day walkout.

Smith asked the FAA to establish 60 as a mandatory retirement age for pilots, and the rule was later adopted as the federal standard.”

Ft.Worth Star-Telegram, Trebor Banstetter.