Pilot unions oppose rising pilot retirement age to 67

US-based pilot unions are opposing the mandatory retirement age rising to 67
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Several pilot unions based in the United States (US) voiced their opposition to the newest bill that would raise the mandatory pilot age from 65 to 67. 

Troy Nehls, a Republican from Texas, introduced an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Bill, which was voted on by the US House of Representatives Transport & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee. T&I approved the bill on June 14, 2023, while Nehls introduced the amendment on June 12, 2023. 

In the Republican lawmaker’s amendment, he suggested changing Section 44729 of Title 49 of the US Code, striking out 65 and inserting the number 67, essentially making the mandatory retirement age for pilots in the US to be 67. 

Responding to the changes, Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA), a union representing pilots at Air Canada, JetBlue, Alaska Airlines, Breeze Airways, Delta Air Lines, Spirit Airlines, United Airlines, and others, launched a petition, urging members to take action against the bill. 

“[…] Airlines’ executives are pushing a false narrative about pilot availability—and saying they can fix their invented “problem” if the mandatory retirement age for U.S. airline pilots is raised above age 65,” read the petition text, continuing that the changes would result in younger pilots being displaced. In addition, it would “introduce risk into the aviation system, increase air carrier training costs and further complicate the pilot training backlog”. 

“ALPA strongly opposes this effort, as reiterated by the Board of Directors’ adoption of unequivocal policy on the matter in 2022,” added the union. 

Meanwhile, Allied Pilots Association (APA), representing 15,000 American Airlines pilots, also voiced opposition to the amendment. 

“Safety considerations drove the establishment of the current international standard of age 65 mandatory retirement, and raising the pilot retirement age would introduce additional risk into commercial aviation,” said Captain Ed Sicher, the President of APA. “Health concerns such as cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes become more prevalent as we age — something that has been studied extensively and demonstrated by American Airlines’ own data,” added Sicher, mentioning the fact that around 30% of pilots at American Airlines that are nearing retirement is either on long-term sick leave or disability. 

“Raising pilot retirement age would be ill-advised for a host of reasons, and we urge lawmakers to remove the amendment before approving this legislation,” concluded Sicher. 

Families of the victims of Colgan Air Flight 3407 also voiced their criticism of the FAA Reauthorization Bill, saying that making changes to the way First Officers are trained in the US would weaken the system that was established following the crash in 2009. Several years after the accident, which claimed the lives of 51 people, the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2010 mandated that First Officers would need 1,500 flight hours (FH) before being employed at a commercial airline. 

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