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"Life after 60 for airline pilots?"



Monday, November 21, 2005

Life after 60 for airline pilots?
By James Wallace
The Seattle (WA) Post-Intelligencer


During Boeing's 777-200LR record distance flight a week ago, I spent some of
my 22 hours and 42 minutes in the air talking with John Cashman, who joined
an elite group of Boeing test pilots back in 1994 when he was in the left
seat for the maiden flight of the company's new 777 jetliner.

Only a small number of Boeing pilots have had the honor to be the first to
test fly an all-new Boeing jetliner, starting with the 707. But next year,
Cashman turns 63, the age when Boeing test pilots must hang it up. They can
continue working for Boeing, but can't fly for Boeing. Cashman plans to
retire.

"Maybe I'll reappear with the FAA,'' Cashman quipped. The FAA sometimes has
observers in the cockpit during test flights.

On the record flight, Cashman was in the co-pilot seat when the plane landed
in London after its record flight from Hong Kong. It was fitting that he
should have been, given all that Cashman has accomplished during his Boeing
career.

These days, Cashman spends less of his time flying Boeing test planes than
on the ground in his duties as head of Boeing's flight test operations,
evaluating new talent who might one day fly Boeing's future jetliners. By
the time the 787 test flight program wraps up in 2008, Cashman said, a
number of other Boeing test pilots will be nearing age 63. 

"A lot of our experience will be retiring,'' Cashman said.

Is 63 too old to be flying jetliners?

That's three years longer than commercial jetliner pilots have. Over the
years, there has been much debate in the airline pilot community about the
Age 60 Rule. Last week, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee approved
legislation that would require the FAA to repeal the Age 60 Rule in favor of
permitting pilots to work until they are 65. Copilots would have to be below
age 60.

Interestingly, the bill was welcomed by the pilots association of Southwest
Airlines but criticized by the Allied Pilots Association representing pilots
at American Airlines.

Before it can become law, the bill must be passed by the entire Senate as
well as the House and signed by the President. That may be a tough
proposition. The FAA has long opposed any attempt to change the Age 60 Rule.

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