FAA's Blakey: Time To Update Age 60 Rule

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Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Marion C. Blakey yesterday announced her agency will propose increasing the mandatory retirement age for U.S. airline pilots from 60 to 65. Her announcement was made in a luncheon speech at the National Press Club and follows last year's formation of a rulemaking committee that basically punted on the question it was convened to resolve. Changes to the FAA's long-debated Age 60 rule became more likely last year after the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) changed its rules, allowing pilots up to age 65 to serve aboard scheduled carriers. In essence, ICAO's rules allowed foreign carriers to fly to and from the U.S. with older pilots at the controls while the FAA's own rules forbids domestic carriers from conducting the same operation. In response, that FAA panel, formally known as the "Age 60 Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC)," was formed on Sept. 27, 2006, and made its final report to the FAA on Nov. 29. Blakey said her agency plans to issue a formal Notice of Proposed Rulemaking later this year and will publish a final rule after considering public comments.

Instead of presenting formal recommendations, the FAA's Age 60 panel noted, "While ARC members collaborated to identify many issues associated with adoption of the new ICAO standard, polarized views limited the ARC’s ability to reach consensus on recommendations." Instead, the ARC was able to come to a consensus on only one recommendation: that any future change in the Age 60 rule be prospective, not retroactive. In her remarks to the National Press Club, Blakey said that the FAA plans to propose adopting the new ICAO standard that allows one pilot to be up to age 65 provided the other pilot is under age 60. “A pilot’s experience counts -- it’s an added margin of safety,” said Blakey. “Foreign airlines have demonstrated that experienced pilots in good health can fly beyond age 60 without compromising safety.” The Age 60 Rule first went into effect in 1959. Despite numerous attempts in Congress and by others who petitioned the agency to overturn the rule or increase its age limit, this is the first time an FAA Administrator has expressed any support of such a change.