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"Editorial: FAA should let healthy U.S. airline pilots fly until they reach 65"

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Friendlier skies
The Federal Aviation Administration should let healthy U.S. airline pilots
fly until they reach 65.
The Houston (TX) Chronicle 

For almost 50 years the Federal Aviation Administration has required U.S.
airline pilots to retire at age 60. The policy lacks a medical rationale,
discriminates against American pilots and should be speedily changed.

FAA regulators grant waivers to most foreign airline pilots between the ages
of 60 and 65, but decline to do the same for U.S. pilots. The officials cite
general policy difficulties, but reluctance to get crosswise with the
airlines is no excuse for not doing the right thing by America's pilots,
many of whom are veterans of Vietnam and other conflicts.

In January, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey said the time had come to end
mandatory retirement at 60. She said the FAA had examined safety data and
could find no evidence that pilots who reach 60 are any less safe than
younger pilots. Several hundred pilots older than 60 fly corporate jets,
where they are not restricted.

It's good that she has set the process in motion, but years of bureaucratic
torpor and formal rule-making procedures could pass before the change takes

The solution is for the FAA to grant U.S. pilots approaching 60 the same
waivers it grants older foreign pilots flying into, out of and around U.S.
airports. Safety would not be affected, and the pilots would remain in the
cockpit, where they are needed to counter a looming pilot shortage.

The United Nations' Civil Aviation Organization allows one pilot between the
60 and 65, so long as the other pilot is under 60. This seems a reasonable
mix of vigor and experience.

The time has passed when a rule change could help Fedex Captain Steven E.
Collins, who turned 60 in May. Collins shared his story in a letter to the
Chronicle editorial board, which calmly demonstrates the injustice and
capriciousness of the over-60 rule:

"I served as an Army helicopter pilot from 1966-1971, flying combat missions
in Vietnam in 1968 and 1970. From 1974-1990 I was a Navy fighter pilot
deployed on aircraft carriers to hot spots around the world. In 1990 I
retired as executive officer of the Navy Fighter Weapons School, better
known as "Top Gun."

"In 1990 I joined Fedex as a flight crewmember and rose to captain, based in
Anchorage, Alaska. ... It will be 18 months or two years before a proposed
new rule will take effect. In the interim, more than 5,000 American
commercial pilots will be forced to retire at age 60. ...

"Please inform the American public of this horrible wrong."


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