Senators Propose Raising Pilot Retirement Age To 67


A bipartisan group of senators is calling for the mandatory retirement age for airline pilots to be raised to 67 from 65. A similar bill was proposed by Sen. Lindsay Graham and other Republicans last year. This time Democrats Joe Manchin and Mark Kelly have joined the effort. The current proposal would require “rigorous medical screening” every six months, according to Reuters. Graham said about 5,000 pilots will have to retire in the next two years, further compounding what many in the aviation industry consider to be a pilot shortage.

Among those who say the shortage is real is the Regional Airline Association, which praised the proposal. RAA President Faye Malarkey Black told Reuters the retirement age increase “the one solution that will immediately mitigate the pilot shortage, particularly the captain shortage, which is an even more acute constraint within a constraint.” The Air Line Pilots Association opposes the increase and has said airline mismanagement is behind the flight cancellations and disruptions of the last year.

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.

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  1. Where were these guys when I needed them, 20 years ago?

    I would have happily logged another 7 yeas of earnings.

  2. Why would ALPA oppose this? It should be entirely up to the pilot when to retire, not forced on them by some extremely outdated bit of rule making from another era. Mismanagement or not is irrelevant to the argument. Just pass the medical, sim etc and carry on enjoying your job. Or retire if you don’t.

    • ALPA is a political organization. They want to increase leverage by keeping the pilot shortage to the max. But mostly because younger pilots want us out of their seats so they can move up in seniority. It has nothing to do with safety. In fact ALPA is all out lying to congress now. They can actually say with a straight face there is no pilot shortage.

  3. Airline pilots already have a 6 month medical (with EKG), so, except for mandatory blood screening they are already there as far as a medical.
    How about we consider similar retirement considerations for individuals whose actions or inactions also have serious implications for the general populace, our Senators, Representatives, and President. Certainly they have tremendous responsibility, shouldn’t we make sure they are physically and mentally up to the task?

    • The President already has a two-term limitation, which should be extended to both Senators and Representatives. But you left out one important branch of the government – the Supreme Court. Maybe lifetime appointments were appropriate in colonial times when the average lifespan was about 60-65 years old, but we now have some octogenarians on the court that should be retired. The should have a term limit just the legislative branch.

  4. Why have a “mandatory retirement age” at all?
    Pilots are the most monitored profession in the world; medicals every six months; several sim rides a year, plus classroom time.
    Eliminate the arbritray age and be done with it; the system is geared to weeding out problems regardless of age; let the standards do their job.

    • I think it’s more about setting a date for when you are eligible to receive pension benefits.

  5. These guys can stay as long as they go to the bottom of the seniority list. Most of them have had 40-year careers. Thanks to the lost decade The rest of us won’t be so lucky.

  6. A young person’s job, high stress, back side of the clock flying, bad food, and dirty hotels just to mention a few good reasons. Look at the statics, retiring at sixty five an dead at seventy five. Add two more years and see where that goes.

    • Well, physiological age and chronological age can be different. For example. I have been flying professionally for 48 years. I flew for the major airlines for 42 years, retiring at mandatory age of 65. I am in excellent health still possess a first class physical and currently flying a corporate aircraft with two of my fellow retirees from the airlines. We are 68, 71 and 66. All in excellent mental and physical shape. I think that totally retiring is what kills a lot of people. By the way my dad a naval aviator and airline retiree was still flying at 75 and passed away at 93. With regards to your comment on bad food, dirty hotels etc.. I stayed in first class hotels and ate quite well while flying the back side of the clock to Asia, South America and Europe. One shoe size does not fit all.

  7. Being forced by FAA lawyers (who fought hard against raising the pilot retirement age), retiring at age 60 at the peak of my physical and cognitive abilities was a most bitter pill to swallow! The practice of law helped to shake off the bitterness of the loss. I’m 81 now and believe I could still put a Boeing or a Douglas through its paces.

  8. Normally I would say go ahead increase the retirement age. Problem is this proposal looks like one of those that you would say “careful what you wish for”. If this means there will be changes to the first class medical that unnecessarily makes it more difficult to pass then no, I do not support this legislation.

  9. How many regional captains stay at a regional job at age 65? I think the RAA President is full of it! I agree with ALPA (one of the few times I do) that airline management or mismanagement if you will created the current situation the airlines find themselves in now. Let them figure out a way out.

  10. I for one was totally against being forced out of my job at age 65. I was and am in great physical shape. I was flying long haul in the 787 to places all over the world and quite happy with it. Not every pilot is the same and there are many pilots that are in their 40s and 50s who shouldn’t be flying. I still fly corporate aircraft at 68, along with two of my fellow retirees 66 and 70. I do agree with ALPA that airline management was contributed to the pilot shortage by constantly trying to pay us peanuts but I do not agree with a mandatory age. As long as a pilot can pass a first class physical, check rides and line checks, they should be able to fly. As a check airman for 22 years at a major airline I did see some pilots that were forced to medically retire in their fifties. So it can be done safely.

  11. While I don’t necessarily agree with it, a mandatory retirement age eliminates the possible fight over whether a pilot is physically or mentally able to do the job, but who does not want to retire yet. By sticking with a single number for all pilots (whatever the number is) everyone is treated the same. From a regulatory standpoint, that is the easiest way to go. The trick is in deciding what a good age is. With people living longer and aging more slowly, moving to an older age is probably appropriate.

  12. Rigorous medical screening? They stood by doing nothing while the airlines bullied pilots into undergoing experimental medical treatments in gross violation of their own medical guidelines. Now the heart damage caused by said treatment is becoming overwhelmingly obvious they reduce the standards.

  13. New Zealand does NOT have a mandatory retirement age. HOWEVER, since this is in discord with ICAO, pilots older than 65, who have passed their medical, are limited to domestic operations (i.e. within New Zealand airspace)

  14. Age 67 is no more right than 60 or 65. Each individual is different. Be careful what you ask for when proposing a “rigorous “medical examination. That may defeat the whole purpose of increasing the age. There are plenty of 50 and 60 year olds that should not be flying and they may just get identified and grounded. If a surgeon and a congressman ( or a President) or lawyer can work without an age limit a pilot should be able to do the same. I got kicked out of the airlines at age 65. I did not have a 40 year career either by the way, when I got out of the Air Force, I was too old to work for the airlines. Then, magically 10 years later, I was hired by the airlines. I’m now 72 and fly part 91 Business jets for fun and profit. And no, I don’t have to. I have the original wife one house, no boat and no airplane of my own. I just still love to fly! age discrimination in any career field is not right, and should not be promoted by the government.

    • Dang,
      I’m on wife number three. Have a boat. Have an airplane. You really don’t know what you’re missing !