FAA highlights potential risks of raising mandatory retirement age for pilots

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) chief, in a letter to Congress, advised against increasing the compulsory retirement age for airline pilots from 65 to 67 until further research could be conducted. FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker emphasized the importance of allowing the agency to carry out research and identify necessary measures before making such a decision. The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee is considering holding a hearing to discuss its version of the aviation bill, which would extend the FAA's authorization.

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Senator Maria Cantwell, the committee chair, stated that a scientific and safety analysis should precede any decision to raise the pilot retirement age. She stressed that aviation safety is of utmost importance and that shortcuts should not be taken. Despite this, the U.S. House passed an aviation reform measure in July with a vote of 351-69, proposing to increase the mandatory retirement age to 67. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, in a separate letter to Congress, noted that the FAA currently lacks data to support such an increase in the retirement age. He warned that raising the age to 67 would exceed international standards and could have implications for U.S. air carriers. Congress has twice voted to temporarily extend the agency after failing to pass the FAA bill before the September 30 deadline last year. The current extension is set to expire in early March.

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Airlines for America, a group representing major U.S. airlines, declined to comment on the matter. The Air Line Pilots Association expressed opposition to raising the retirement age, citing potential disruptions to airline scheduling and pilot training, as well as the need to renegotiate pilot contracts. However, they commended Whitaker's letter.

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International regulations would still prohibit pilots over the age of 65 from flying in most countries outside the U.S. The Regional Airline Association supports the proposed increase in the pilot retirement age, arguing that it would allow for the retention of experienced captains who could mentor new first officers, thereby helping to manage attrition. A previous dispute over changes to pilot training requirements, which were implemented following the fatal crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 in February 2009, had stalled the Senate bill. This issue appears to have been resolved.

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