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FAA Chief: Controller Age Limit "Law Of The Land"

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If it's OK for pilots to work until age 65, then why must air traffic controllers retire at 56? "Because that's the law of the land," FAA Administrator Marion Blakey said during a Q&A session after a speech she gave on Tuesday announcing that the age limit for airline pilots would be upped from 60 to 65. "If there is a move on Congress' part to raise the age for controllers, we would be happy to work with them on it." The FAA chief said last year's retirements from ATC were about 25 percent higher than expected, which she attributed to the imposition of the FAA's new contract. But she also defended that contract as "very fair," and said she has no intention to reopen negotiations. She said the agency will hire 1,100 controllers this year, staying ahead of the number of expected retirements. More than 2,000 qualified candidates are "lined up and ready to go," Blakey said. New controllers earn about $96,000 after five years, she noted, and the FAA is not having any problems filling those jobs. Blakey also said the FAA's new budget plan will be released in about two weeks, and the plan is widely expected to include a user-fee system. "We'll look forward to the debate on the Hill," she said, anticipating that changes in how fees are collected to support the system will be controversial.

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