Details Could Scuttle FAA Bill

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While there seems to be agreement in the Senate and House that user fees will not be part of the FAA's next reauthorization package, details in the House bill that was recently passed could hamstring its passage and lead to a veto. The administration has already said it would veto the bill over a section that requires the FAA to resume negotiations with air traffic controllers and to go to arbitration if those talks fail. The FAA imposed a contract on the controllers (with Congress' tacit blessing) more than a year ago, and the controllers union has relentlessly criticized the deal, blaming it for an exodus of experienced controllers and a bottoming-out of morale. The White House has the votes it needs to veto since the 267-151 margin is less than the two-thirds required to block a veto. The other hot-button issue tucked in bill that could cause political fireworks is a provision to increase the mandatory retirement age for airline pilots from 60 to 65.

Although most of the media attention about Age 60 has been about the desire by older pilots to keep working, there are significant numbers of younger pilots who oppose the change. There are still thousands of pilots furloughed or who have been demoted to the right seat or to regional carriers and they see increasing the retirement age as another impediement to career advancement. The older pilots, however, say they need the money since bankruptcy at some legacy carriers wiped out their pensions.