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Allied Pilots Association: “Raising Pilot Retirement Age is Ill-Advised on Multiple Fronts”

FORT WORTH, Texas (May 19, 2022) – The Allied Pilots Association (APA), representing the 14,000 pilots of American Airlines, spoke out against changing the mandatory retirement age for professional airline pilots.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is reportedly soliciting cosponsors for legislation that proposes changing pilot retirement age from 65 to 68. Congress raised the retirement age from 60 to 65 in 2007 to align with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards.

“It’s not at all clear that raising pilot retirement age would actually increase the pilot supply. Moreover, while it might not be less safe, ‘might not’ must never be a rationale on which to base safety-sensitive decisions in our industry,” said APA President Capt. Eric Ferguson. “Further, it would likely create additional instability in airline schedules by displacing pilots age 65 and older from international routes due to ICAO’s age 65 limit for international flying. Pilots age 65 and older would then be assigned to domestic-only flying, in turn displacing less senior pilots from those routes.

“Airlines would also be faced with significantly more training cycles,” he said.

Ferguson also emphasized that raising pilot retirement age would introduce additional risk into commercial aviation.

“According to numerous studies, cognitive abilities decline with increasing age,” he said. “Flying longer would also result in prolonged exposure to solar radiation and the debilitating effects of circadian rhythm disruption. In addition, as we age, we become more susceptible to other health problems such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. These facts are borne out by American Airlines’ own pilot disability demographics, which rise sharply with age.

“Despite what supporters of raising retirement age may claim, there is no shortage of qualified pilots,” Ferguson said. “FAA records indicate that nearly 16,000 new airline transport pilot licenses were issued between 2019 and 2021. During that same time, approximately 9,600 pilots retired, leaving a surplus of several thousand pilots.

“Raising pilot retirement age is ill-advised on multiple fronts, and we urge lawmakers to direct their focus elsewhere.”

Founded in 1963, the Allied Pilots Association — the largest independent pilots union in the United States — is headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas. APA represents the 14,000 pilots of American Airlines, including several hundred pilots on full-time military leave of absence serving in the armed forces. The union’s website is AlliedPilots.org.

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