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Allied Pilots Association: “Raising Pilot Retirement Age Would Introduce Additional Risk”

FORT WORTH, Texas (June 15, 2023) – The Allied Pilots Association (APA), representing the 15,000 pilots of American Airlines, voiced its opposition to any change in the mandatory retirement age for airline pilots.

The pending Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act, which would reauthorize funding for the Federal Aviation Administration and aviation safety and infrastructure programs for the next five years, includes an amendment that would raise the mandatory retirement age for pilots from 65 to 67.

“Safety considerations drove the establishment of the current international standard of age 65 mandatory retirement, and raising the pilot retirement age would introduce additional risk into commercial aviation,” said APA President Capt. Ed Sicher. “Health concerns such as cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes become more prevalent as we age — something that has been studied extensively and demonstrated by American Airlines’ own data. Approximately one in every three pilots nearing age 65 on our seniority list is on long-term sick or disability, and the rate of illness rises exponentially after age 59. Moreover, extending pilots’ flying careers would prolong our exposure to solar radiation and the debilitating effects of circadian rhythm disruption, which have been shown to shorten our lifespans.

“As for increasing pilot supply, it’s not at all clear how much of a difference this would make,” he said. “While there is no actual pilot shortage, airlines are experiencing bottlenecks in their pilot training pipelines. Raising the retirement age would exacerbate the situation by increasing the number of training cycles as senior pilots are forced back to domestic flying, sometimes on different equipment.”

Raising pilot retirement age would put the United States at odds with the International Civil Aviation Organization, which mandates retirement for pilots in multi-crew operations at age 65. Pilots who are age 65 and older would be unable to fly outside U.S. borders, complicating airlines’ schedule construction. Pilots who are 65 and older would have to be assigned to domestic-only flying, in turn displacing younger, less-senior pilots from those routes and adding to the training backlog.

“Raising pilot retirement age would be ill-advised for a host of reasons, and we urge lawmakers to remove the amendment before approving this legislation,” Sicher said. “There is no sound justification for such a change.”

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 15,000 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