NATCA Opposes Lifting Controller Age-56 Limit

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While various groups continue to press the government to allow airline pilots to fly beyond the age of 60, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association says allowing controllers to work beyond the age of 56 "is fraught with considerable problems of controller health, manpower distribution, and the general safety of America's flying public." Eugene R. Freedman, NATCA's policy counsel, was slated to speak before the Senate Special Committee on Aging on Tuesday. Congress recently directed the FAA to adopt rules to issue waivers to the age limit as a way of combating a retirement-induced exodus of controllers over the next decade, something Freedman describes as "a dangerous shortcut." Whether or not a staffing crisis is imminent still appears to be a point of some contention. The union says studies have shown that extending the careers of controllers would be "extremely dangerous." NATCA also maintains that increasing the number of grey heads in towers and centers won't be enough to forestall the looming controller shortage. The union wants the government to hire more recruits. The Senate and House are now looking over appropriations bills that would include $10 million to hire new controllers. NATCA President John Carr said that's a good start but much more will be needed to keep the consoles properly manned.