Aviation Generation Gap Sparks Safety Concern

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There are going to be a lot fewer gray heads in cockpits and towers in coming years and that, according to the Orlando Sentinel, has raised safety concerns. The paper claims that 25,000 seasoned pilots will hang up their hats in the next 10 years, to be replaced by 50,000 rookies, some fresh out of flight school. At the same time, about three-quarters of the U.S.'s air traffic controllers will be eligible to retire. This confluence of fresh faces on each side of the aviation safety equation is raising eyebrows, if not fears. "I wouldn't go so far as to say it's going to be dangerous," aviation consultant Stuart Klaskin told the newspaper. "But it's one of those situations that needs to be understood now and acted upon now." Klaskin suggests relaxing mandatory retirement ages for both pilots and controllers. There is (yet another) bill before Congress that would raise the maximum age for pilots to 65 from 60 and the FAA has already begun a program to allow especially fit controllers to work beyond the current retirement age of 56, subject to an annual review. And while commuter and regional airlines are already lowering hiring standards to find pilots, it will be a while before the major airlines will have to wrestle with the issue. They still have more than 9,000 fully qualified pilots on furlough.