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"Big boost for senior pilots"



Friday, September 14, 2007

Big boost for senior pilots
Retirement age may rise
By Marilyn Geewax
Cox Washington Bureau

 
Washington -- Commercial airline pilots who want to keep flying beyond age
60 got encouragement this week when the Senate agreed to allow them to work
until age 65.

A provision raising the mandatory retirement age was tucked into the
transportation appropriations bill approved overwhelmingly Wednesday by the
Senate. The Federal Aviation Administration already is considering a rule
that would have the same effect, but the Senate legislation, if enacted,
would take effect immediately.

The country is "losing a number of experienced pilots every day due to the
outdated FAA age 60 rule," co-sponsor Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said in a
statement. "It is important we change the rule as soon as possible to make
sure our most senior and seasoned pilots remain in the system."

But the fate of the Senate provision is far from certain. It is part of an
appropriations bill that the White House has promised to veto for exceeding
President Bush's spending limit for domestic programs. While the Senate
passed the transportation bill by a veto-proof majority of 88-7, the House
passed its version in July by 268-153, short of the two-thirds majority
needed to override a veto. The process of overriding the veto could drag out
the final legislation for weeks or months.

Even if a veto could be overcome, there is no guarantee that House and
Senate negotiators, who must iron out any difference between their versions
of the bill, would include the retirement provision in the final
transportation legislation.

Still, the Senate's willingness to include the provision shows it has
momentum.

"Absolutely we think this is a step in the right direction," said Paul
Emens, a pilot who chairs Airline Pilots Against Age Discrimination, a group
pushing to raise the retirement age. "We need this to happen and happen
quickly . . . so this opens a new avenue for us."

If the retirement age change fails to survive in the transportation spending
bill, it could still become law as part of a separate FAA reauthorization
bill, he said. The current authorization expires Sept. 30, so Congress will
soon be focusing on that legislation.

Both the House and Senate are considering FAA spending bills that include
provisions raising the retirement age.

The move to lengthen careers until 65 is vigorously supported by pilots
whose commercial airlines have gone bankrupt and canceled their pension
plans. They want to keep working to earn more money to make up for lost
pensions.

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