Net Jets Adopts Mandatory Retirement At Age 70 For Pilots


NetJets has adopted a mandatory retirement age of 70 for pilots and let go about 100 earlier this month. Business Jet Traveler reported the pilots were terminated Jan. 10. Some of those pilots have launched a lawsuit against NetJets trying to overturn the age cap, but Congress gave Part 91K and Part 135 operators the right to set the retirement age in an omnibus bill in December of 2022.

The NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots (NJASAP) fought the move, but an arbitrator rejected it and a federal court in Texas refused to issue an injunction against NetJets to stop the terminations. “Because the court concludes that the pilots failed to establish that any of their claims is likely to succeed on the merits, and this case does not warrant the exceptionally rare preliminary injunction under the [Railway Labor Act], the court denies the motion for preliminary injunction,” Business Jet Traveler reported the court’s decision as saying. NetJets was not required to set the retirement age, but it’s now permanent.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. From my experience, at 70, it is time! From my observation of others, at 60, it is time! And, should one want to get really picky, some at 50, it is time.

  2. As an active 77 year old commercial pilot, I don’t agree with a hard age limit. Pilot competence is an individual thing. It depends on the pilot’s physical and mental health. More experience means that you’re a better pilot. There are no effective means to test pilot reaction time, mental acuity and decision making capability incorporated into the FAA medical certificates. 91K and 135 operators should focus on adding tests like this rather than assuming that all pilots age out at 70.

    • I have a lot of sympathy with this view, as ageing is clearly a variable and personal experience. I can’t help feeling that someone with decades and 10,000s of hours of experience is wasted flying legs when they could be passing on their wisdom training others, although I appreciate not everyone wants to instruct.

    • I don’t know if the statistics are there for older pilots but the insurance companies are of the opinion that older pilots are a higher risk. Follow the money.
      I agree that one size fits all approach isn’t a great plan. But the other way is equally as discriminatory and setting performance standards fraught with complications and work arounds to allow pilots that don’t want to retire but should from flying.
      I retired 22 months before I was forced out at 65 at my 121 job. Because I wanted the time to pursue other activities. I continue to fly and teach aviation in so many different ways and being a mentor has been more rewarding than I expected.

    • That’s what check rides every 6 months are supposed to do. If you can’t pass the check ride and a first class medical every 6 months then that is sufficient enough. Be very careful with additional medical items, you might get them.

  3. I am 71 and I can still do the job as good as or better that when I was 21 or 51. Frankly my eyesight is better today that it was back in the day. So I say to Net Jets, show us the proof. Show us the facts. because as an observer I see a great safety record at Net Jets which by-the-way…. included these 100 old timers that were just discarded because they turned a day older.

    Bean counters, this is all about beans. It has always been about expensive old timers and not about safety. Here is the paradox….Warren Buffet is 93 and you still let him play with your life savings. But at 70 he won’t let you play with his airplanes. Warren Buffet was in his prime at 70 but somehow he discards his 70 year old pilots as if they are trash. Shame on you Mr. Buffett. Shame on you.

    • Could be a pay and seniority issue or institutional memory is a dangerous thing for the young turks coming in. Boeing’s management decisions come to mind, these days. Companies have a long history of retiring expensive, experienced, long-timers because they are knowledgeable, skilled, and expensive.

      Is there a thing of which it is said,
      “See, this is new”?
      It has been already
      in the ages before us.
      There is no remembrance of former things,
      nor will there be any remembrance
      of later things yet to be
      among those who come after. Ecclesiastes 1:10–11

  4. I’m always amused when “do-gooders” (whether it is the FAA, or someone like Netjets) tries to apply a “one size fits all” rule.

    I’m 76–and still fly a King Air 200 for a corporation about 300 hours a year. This is my 62nd year of flying, and 52nd in the FBO business. I have over 30,000 hours, and 12000 in King Airs. I’ve never had an accident or FAA violation. I have an ATP, am typed in 5 jets, and rated Commercial helicopter, glider, single and multi-engine sea, and balloons.

    Last time I checked, there were 16 insurance markets in the country–some of them “share risk” in insurance pools, but there is always a primary underwriter. I asked our insurance broker how many companies quoted our policy–3–and the policy cost has changed little in the past 5 years. I asked “what can I do to make us a better insurance candidate?”

    The answer was–“you are doing everything right. You fly–a LOT (a total of 500-600 hours a year on average). You do recurrent training with a nationally recognized training company. The insurance companies LIKE IT that you fly all of these diverse airplanes–it shows a willingness to keep up proficiency. They LIKE IT that you’ve maintained your flight and ground instructor certificates–it shows involvement in the industry. THEY LIKE IT that you continue in the FBO business–you are “connected” to the industry. They LIKE IT that you write for several regional aviation magazines–again, “you are connected to the industry.”

    The lesson here–DO WHAT YOU CAN TO MAKE YOURSELF THE BEST CANDIDATE FOR THE INSURANCE COMPANIES TO CONTINUE TO WRITE YOU. Add a rating (even if it isn’t connected to your “real” job–like a glider rating–hard for an insurance company to deny coverage when you’ve just passed an FAA oral and check ride!). Keep good records of attendance at aviation schools, seminars, and recurrent training (again, “shows an interest and connection to the industry”.)

    Participate in CHARITY FLIGHTS–medical transports–Pilots N’ Paws (transport animals to their adoptive “forever homes”)–EAA Young Eagles–“Lighthawk” conservation flying, etc.

    Medicals–though there is no need to carry a Class I flight physical every year, I do so–and let it automatically lapse into a Class II–all that is legally required. “Going the extra mile” is reassuring to the insurance company. Be sure your insurance agent makes the prospective carriers aware of this.

    All that said, there WILL come a day when we can no longer qualify for a Class II or better medical–or a changing insurance market will deny coverage. That would be a sad day for me–but I will likely be able to fly as a Private Pilot under Class III medical–OR under BasicMed, Light Sport or Ultralight rules (not to mention glider and balloon operations). (smile!)

  5. Those who point out that there is a wide variability in the (inevitable) age-related decline in competence are certainly correct.

    Unfortunately, it is also correct to point out that basing “mandatory” retirement age on an ongoing real-time process of detecting and quantifying the level of decline individual by individual represents a difficult, inexact and expensive process for the company. It also ensures no one will be happy, except maybe lawsuit attorneys if the pilot in an accident happens to be at the far end of the seniority scale.

  6. So on the one hand Congress hands down an edict (Part 91K and Part 135 operators the right to set the retirement age in an omnibus bill in December of 2022.)
    That conflicts directly with one of their other edicts (No age discrimination). Perhaps no one should be eligible for public office past oh, let’s say70.

    • Actually, I would prefer a competency test for public office holders rather than a set age limit. That would most likely eliminate half the idiots we currently have in Congress! Seriously though, while I agree that an arbitrary age limit is unfair, I just don’t see how someone could develop a consensus standard for pilots that everyone would support. A set age is at least consistent, and you know well in advance that it is approaching for you. Yeah, the NetJets sudden imposition of age 70 was unfair when they sprung it on those 100 pilots with little or no warning. But a competency test would be an uncertain thing facing you every year or so, and you would not really know where you stood going in. Plus, a failing result would likely result in lots of litigation or appeals by the pilots, something that neither the FAA nor the airlines want.

    • I wonder what politician NetJets paid off to sneak the max age proposal in the first place! It’s amazing how quiet the NetJets Union, AOPA, and all the other GA alphabet organizations have been on this issue.

    • That’s one of the reasons I’ve kept my 172 for 39 years now. There’s no safer airplane. I’d love to have a nice 182 or more but … my mission is recreation so … why? Adding retractible gear is another issue. Don’t need it.

      • I was cancelled by my (then) current underwriter at age 70 because they considered me “unsafe” to fly in my complex (Cardinal RG) airplane. Had I stepped down to a fixed gear Cardinal, maybe they would have been okay. I found a new underwriter that seems okay with me in the RG, but it ain’t cheap.

  7. Wondering if Netjets opened the door for volunteers to retire at 70? If not, perhaps it’s a signal that this was a hard line due to costs and insurance weighing in.

  8. When I had to retire at 60, felt like I was still in my prime. The change to 65 came too late for me. As a co-pilot, I flew with a handful of “old guys” in their 50s that I thought should have quit early, but that was why I was there, just in case. I am now 84 and look back to what retirement age would have been appropriate, I think 65-70 would have been about right, depending on the state of the industry and assuming the working conditions did not change. I didn’t start getting senior moments until my late 70s.
    I must hasten to add that I have always considered corporate and especially charter a much more demanding job than airline, especially if age does not bring any improvement in working conditions. I knew a guy that flew corporate for quite a while while the airlines were not hiring. His comment when he got hired by a major airline: “It’s so easy!” Therefore, other than the sudden implementation, I do not object to NetJets new age 70 rule.

  9. When I read some of the online forums on this age issue, I get the feeling it comes down to a lack of respect for older more experienced pilots. A lot of younger pilots seem to think that they are entitled to that left seat (captain) position. It seems to me that this is a reflection on American society in general, not just aviation. Lack of respect for your elders! There is a scene in the movie “Big Jake” where John Wayne’s character walks up to his son saying “son, since you haven’t learned to respect your elders, it’s time you learn to respect your betters”! If you haven’t seen the movie I’ll let you figure out how that scene ends.

  10. C’mon! This isn’t that hard! Insurance companies hire actuaries to study risks. What is NEEDED is for any of the companies to “Make their own market” by offering insurance to older pilots BASED ON REAL RISKS instead of an arbitrary number.

    As previously mentioned, I still have insurance flying a King Air at age 76–but I “make myself a better candidate” by obtaining new ratings–taking recurrent training, attending (and hosting) safety seminars, taking a Class I medical instead of Class II, maintaining my CFI and Ground Instructor ratings, and staying active in the industry.

    It’s easy to accept the insurance company edict–but it IS possible to gain an exception if you can convince them that you are a good risk. Google the classic “The Quitter” by Robert Service–“the Bard of the (Alaskan) Gold Rush”. https//

    A miner during the Alaskan Gold Rush was lost in the woods in the freezing cold, and considered committing suicide:

    “you’re sick of the game”–well now, that’s a shame
    You’re young and you’re brave and you’re bright. “You’ve had a raw deal!” I know, but don’t squeal, Buck up, do your damnedest, and FIGHT!
    It’s the plugging away, that will win you the day, so don’t be a piker, old pard!
    Just draw on your grit, it’s so easy to quit–it’s the keeping-your-chin-up that’s hard!”

    Refuse to accept the insurance edict–convince them that you ARE a good risk–and if you can’t do that, consider going Light Sport, ultralight, glider, or balloon. You will ALWAYS be a pilot–IF YOU FIGHT FOR IT!

  11. I have been an aviation enthusiast since I was a kid. My family (uncles, father, and siblings) have also been into flying for many decades. I lost a brother in an aviation accident in 2006. I flew UAVs for the Navy in PR, CA, and HI for many years. I wholeheartedly agree that age (the number) should not be a determining factor of one’s competence. Not to get into politics, we have a commander in chief that’s 81 years old. He has a difficult job, but using the federal parameters of safety and national security, he should not be in that position. That’s inconsistent at best!

  12. I’ve seen too many heart attacks fresh out of 1st class FAA physicals. You always feel fine right up until you don’t. That possibility increases as you age. I retired at 68. It had nothing to do with competency. It was just time to let single pilot PIC and all the responsibility go. I will occasionally still fly right seat to hopefully pass on some of the 50+ years of experience.

  13. May be you could look at it from another angle and (this is for me a much broader picture than just for pilots), it’s time to give back and let the seats to the young generation … and this should apply to all Corporate Executives and Political positions way beyond aviation world in my humble opinion ! And 70 is already way too late even if you are still super fit for purpose, the question is not there !
    But human nature in it’s large majority is greedy, and never wants to hand over power once they touch it from dictators, to presidents (or candidates !), to CEOs and hopefully I wish we do not want to see Captains assimilated there … time to go fly for leisure guys !

  14. Using the “logic” of an arbitrary mandatory retirement age doesn’t hold up well when looking at the causes of accidents. In aviation, we have medicals–yet very few accidents are due to a sudden heart stoppage or loss of consciousness . Unlike car drivers, we do get screened.

    The mandated medical and self-screening seem to do a good job. Balloons, gliders, ultralights (and even including skydivers!) don’t require a medical–and despite having a higher than average percentage of pilots WITHOUT a medical, (because it isn’t required) have a demonstrated low pilot incapacitation rate–usually AT OR BELOW that for Private Pilots WITH medicals. This demonstrated record puts the lie to efficacy of medicals for non-commercial aviation.

    Compare the exposure of having pilots without medicals to the incapacitation rate of people driving CARS. I suppose it HAS HAPPENED, BUT WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU HEARD OF A PERSON BECOMING SUDDENLY MEDICALLY or PHYSICALLY INCAPACITATED IN A CAR? I’m not advocating getting rid of medicals–just that it is pretty hard to justify it for “safety” for non-commercial aviation, as demonstrated by balloonists, glider pilots, and ultralight pilots–they seem to do as good or better at “self-policing” than the decades of aviation medicals in increasing safety for non-commercial operations.

    Anybody have any actual RATES for aviation medical incapacitation? You would THINK that after decades of studies, involving a cohort of MILLIONS of subjects, that there would be figures. Keep the medical for “for-hire” operations–but the FAA should learn from what works for NON-COMMERCIAL operations.

  15. Another pilot, reading the above, said “You should have mentioned that in CARS–unlike Airplanes–drivers are expected to miss OTHER cars, pedestrians, or obstacles by INCHES, with a closure rate well over 100 mph–that’s akin to driving between concrete barriers inches on either side of your car at 100 miles an hour–that’s what you are doing when driving a car in oncoming traffic– far harder than FLYING! Because of this, we do require medicals for driving large commercial vehicles–why not for CARS?”