FAA Administrator Marion Blakey announced January 30 that the agency would soon be writing rules to move the mandatory retirement age for airline pilots from 60 to 65. The proposed rule change would parallel international standards, requiring one crewmember to be younger than 60 with an older-than-60 pilot in the cockpit.
"While this rule doesn't directly affect pilots flying general aviation aircraft, we've always followed the issue closely because of our concern about any age discrimination against pilots," said AOPA President Phil Boyer.
"We all recognize that older pilots - airline or general aviation - frequently have skills that surpass younger pilots because of their flight hours and experience.
"We hope that this will also be recognized by the insurance community and others who place penalties on older GA pilots," said Boyer.
And to help establish once and for all that age is not a pathology, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation is about to start a yearlong study - with the help of a major recognized research institution - to determine exactly how age affects airmanship and safety.
"We hope this study will put an end to the notion that older GA pilots should be penalized by the insurance industry and the regulations," said Boyer.
And Blakey said about the same thing. "First, medically speaking, there are no scientific studies to say, 'Don't do this,'" she said in announcing the rule change. "In fact, as we'd all agree, medical science is in the place where we're all living longer and healthier. And that includes the cockpit."
But the rule change won't come quickly. Because it must go through the administrative rule process, which includes opportunities for all interested parties to comment and have their comments answered by the FAA, Blakey said the rule might not be implemented for 18 months or more.
Not soon enough for some members of Congress.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) has already reintroduced the "Freedom to Fly Act of 2007" (S.65) which, if passed, would implement age 65 retirement for airline pilots much sooner than the FAA action. Sens. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Joseph Lieberman (Ind-Conn.), and Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) joined Sen. Inhofe in introducing the bill.
January 30, 2007