NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

FAA Rule Contributes To Pilot Shortage

July 27, 2000

Airlines are desperately searching for airline pilots. There are several reasons for the shortage -- military services are turning out fewer pilots, start-up carriers have increased demand and economic growth is adding flights throughout the system.

There is at least a partial solution at hand: allow pilots to continue working past age 60.

  • Back in 1959, the Federal Aviation Administration promulgated a rule that required all pilots to retire at age 60 -- and not a day later.
  • At the time, the FAA was concerned that older pilots wouldn't adapt to new jet aircraft -- but both longevity and new aircraft guidance systems have made great strides since then.
  • Some 44 countries have raised their pilot retirement age to 63 or 65 to ease their own shortages.
  • Other countries have noticed that there is no medical evidence that pilots have a higher accident rate as they near age 60.

Unless something is done, the shortage will only get worse, industry insiders say. A bill introduced in the Senate would raise the mandatory retirement age to 65. But it is opposed by the seniority-conscious airline unions, as well as the FAA.

Source: Editorial, "Short on Pilots," Wall Street Journal, July 27, 2000.


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