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Congress passes rule raising voluntary pilot age restriction

The omnibus spending bill that was passed in December had a small change to the age requirements for pilots. In 1959 the pilot retirement age was set at 60 and this was not changed until 2007 when it was raised from 60 to 65. The age ceiling was called into question with the pilot shortage and drop in the number of active pilots with the COVID-19 pandemic.RELATED STORY:NBAA welcomes omnibus bill including funds to promote aviation industry The "Let Experienced Pilots Fly Act" was introduced in July 2022 by representatives, asking for the age limit to be raised from 65 to 67. The goal was to alleviate the consequences of the shortage seen after the pandemic. There are other pilot restrictions, like those holding a part 61 pilot certificate and operating in certain international air services and air transportation operations if the pilot has reached the age of 60. The omnibus had a small section that would strike the rule governing operations until attaining the age of 65 and changing it to say that airlines may elect to implement an age restriction at 70 years of age. This can be done by delivering a written notice to the Administrator of the FAA, which would take effect one year after the date of delivery. This new age limit option pertains to pilots performing with part 135 or part 91k who have logged at least 75,000 turbojet operations in the year 2019, or any subsequent year.The National Air Carrier Association commended the provision, stating pilots within that five-year age range that can meet FAA health standards should be able to safely fly. The NACA goes on to say that restriction makes little sense being lifted for charter pilots to work five years longer when commercial pilots are still required to retire by 65. NACA continued by saying they encouraged congress to take it a step further, implement the "Let Experienced Pilots Fly Act" and raise the commercial pilot retirement age from 65 to 67 to help with the shortage of commercial pilots. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has listed that the "standard limits the privileges for pilots in single-pilot commercial air transport operations to 60 years of age while extending that limit to 65 years of age for multi-pilot operations. This applies to operations conducted in all categories of manned aircraft and is valid for all pilot positions designated by an operator."ICAO powerpoint by Dr Anthony Evans They continue, stating that annual medical assessments are required for pilots under 60 who are involved in two-person operations, but those over 60 are required to have a six-monthly medical assessment. Since 2007, there have been a few changes made to pilots over 60 and those who have reached 65. Changing from the ICAO medical standards, any person serving as a pilot for an air carrier engaged in covered operations was no longer subject to different medical standards or more frequent examinations, based on age. This change was enforced unless the Secretary determined that, based on data or published studies after the date enacted, different medical standards or more frequent examinations are needed to ensure safety in flight.Pilots' age limit study by the European Aviation Safety Agency No person over the age of 60 may serve as a pilot for covered operations unless they have obtained a first-class medical certificate. The certificate will then expire on the last day of a six-month period. Pilot safety training and operations must continue, with emphasis on initial and recurrent training for those who are over 60. The changes also said that as of the effective date of the bill, section 121.383(c) of title 14, Code of Federal Regulations will no longer be effective, which stated that "no certificate holder may use the services of any person as a pilot on an airplane engaged in operations under this part if that person has reached his or her 65th birthday." A subsection continued, saying that no one who has already attained 60 years of age prior, may serve as a pilot for an air carrier that engages in covered operations unless they were either in the employment of such operations before the date of enactment as a flight deck crew member or a pilot who is newly hired by an air carrier "without credit for prior seniority or prior longevity for benefits or other terms related to length of service prior to the date of rehire under any labor agreement or employment policies of the air carrier." The changes stated that any action that was taken in conformance with this section, may not be used as a basis for liability or relief in a proceeding before a U.S. court or agency.FAA answer for maximum age The rules for pilots continue the international ICAO standard that a pilot of 60 or older may only fly between the U.S. and another country if there is another pilot in the flight deck crew who is under 60. The small section slipped into the large omnibus bill introduced significant changes to the industry. The first change regarding pilot age since 2007, the allowance for a five-year group of pilots to continue to fly could greatly impact the number of pilots in the skies. While this retirement rule is voluntary, if operators choose to enact it, it will establish a ceiling for pilots flying with them.
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