...Financial Issues Loom...

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The union's stance isn't the only thing that's changed in the debate. The strong dose of emotionalism that has always characterized the issue is giving way to more practical arguments. As struggling airlines work with worker unions to slash salaries (up to 35 percent at some carriers) and dump once-lavish pension plans, some senior pilots are facing a retirement cash crunch. "Sixty-three would have been nice," Jim Hamilton, a US Airways pilot who will turn 60 this week, told the Times. "No one knows how long you'll live or if you'll outlive your money." More than 40 other countries have raised their pilot retirement age to 63 or 65. Mazor acknowledged that part of the impetus behind the union's review is that some pilots are hurting financially. The union fought the rule for the first 20 years after its enactment but then changed its position in 1980 because of the FAA's intractability on the issue. It changed its focus, instead, to negotiating the generous retirement packages that are now in jeopardy.