GAO Report On Safety Effects Of Age 65 Rule


Two years ago, when The Fair Treatment for Experienced Pilots Act extended federal age standards for pilots of large commercial aircraft from 60 to 65, it also mandated that the GAO report within 24 months on the effect the change had on aviation safety. There appears to be little to report. The GAO collected FAA accident and incident data, plus NTSB accident data, from December 2007 (when the act went live) through September 2009. They then pored over it for a month. The result: “We believe the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions” … “that no accidents or incidents resulted from the health conditions of pilots 60 years or older.” The results address what the FAA in 1960 established what came to be known as the age-60 rule, based on the belief “that certain important physiological and psychological functions progressively deteriorated with age,” according to the GAO. The results of the GAO’s study (PDF) say that’s not so. There is one “but” … .

The GAO would like to make a more definitive assessment on change either positive or negative by collecting trends for groups both younger and older than 60 years of age. But they say that’s not possible at this time. The more definitive assessment would require a longer period of time to allow for the collection of more data and a more precise conclusion. Unfortunately, it’s only been two years since the act was enacted.