Friday, February 2, 2007

FAA Will Propose To Raise Pilot Retirement Age to 65 and European Commission "Airport Package"

This past week the FAA announced that it will issue a NPRM later this year to raise the mandatory retirement age for U.S. commercial pilots from 60 to 65.  This would bring the U.S. in line with ICAO standards which allow one pilot of a commercial aircraft to be as old as 65 as long as the other pilot is under age 60.  The FAA has been examining this idea closely and this past November its Age 60 Aviation Rulemaking Committee issued an extensive report on this topic.

The European Commission also recently adopted an "airport package" consisting of three key initiatives: (1) a proposal for a directive on airport charges; (2) a communication on airport capacity, efficiency and safety in Europe; and (3) a report on the implementation of the directive on groundhandling.  The package focuses on the role of airports in the further development and competitiveness of the European internal aviation market and will shape the future of airport regulation in Europe by ensuring regulatory convergence between Member States.  Full details on the Commission's proposals can be found here.

Our next posting will contain a roundup of the latest details on potential industry mergers and acquisitions, including the collapsed US Airways - Delta merger proposal and the Alitalia privatization process.

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About time. This is in line with ICAO.

Posted by: Riz | Feb 6, 2007 1:41:50 AM

As someone with 20+ years experience in the aviation field, the last 10 flying for a part 121 carrier, I had preconceived reservations concerning the proposed amendment to the 'age 60 rule.' After scanning the FAA's report, I have softened somewhat on this negative notion. It seems the initial age limitation was, at the very least, arbitrarily driven (by big business -- surprise, surprise). However, in its defense, it's arguable that the rule effected its purpose, at least for a while. First, I look at the pro-amendment argument and why it softened my apprehension. Then, briefly examine the anti-amendment argument for any plausible reason to thwart the tide of change.

While the pro amendment advocates make a fairly convincing case, I remain somewhat skeptical. This reservation stems from the soft justifications presented. To wit, the pro amendment argument stands primarily on 1) public consensus, 2) mere adaptation of the originally arbitrary rule, 3) potential of Congressional imposition of the new rule, 4) unsubstantiated claims of a correlation between the general increased life expectancy and the adequate maintenance of critical psycho-motor skills, as well as timely, efficient and sufficient multitasking, 5) unsubstantiated acceptable resilience to industry wide, fatigue inducing scheduling practices and insidiously innate, humanly taxing job characteristics, and 6) acquiescence to political pressures and charges of arbitrary age discrimination. Viewed in the context of the scientific and technical nature of the aviation industry, these factors supporting change to a perceptively significant safety issue, seemly do not rise to the level of empirical scrutiny usually demanded in other similar fields. Sidebar: The aviation industry, most significantly the air transport industry, is ‘highly regulated’ and is generously peppered with regulations that intercede into the most banal of functions. Nevertheless, as a self-considered reasoned person, I defer to these pro-amendment arguments as having some substantiation beyond the superficial reasons given. As a note, the hinge-post of this pro amendment viewpoint finds itself in the arbitrary nature of the original rule. This speaks volumes, but does not necessarily make the case.

At risk of shortcutting the anti-amendment advocates, and in brevity, the analysis to the answer countering adoption the new rule is brief. To sum up the anti-adoption advocates position, the analysis it is threefold. First, although the original age 60 rule view was concededly arbitrary, time has established a reliance and acceptance on its perceptively wizened view that it advocated. Hence, there comes a point in a person’s life where time, the irrefutable master, robs, or erodes, the ability to effectively wade through the days at the same functional level of an earlier period. The idea was put forth that age is not a disease; and this is absolutely true. As disease is defined, age eludes its classification. However, this is a convenient argument meant to elicit emotional response. While age is not a disease, it never the less works its affects upon the mind and body – just as a disease. That is irrefutable. The question becomes what impact do these changes have, and are they, on average, collectively measurable as a general predictor the suspect behaviors? Further, at what age do the average effects generally appear in the average pilot to pose a sufficiently increased risk to safety? I did not see answers to any of these questions in the report. There is much more to say in this debate. I only wished to quickly open my mind in this diatribe, and maybe someone else’s. I will consider this some more in my busy life, but would welcome a dialog of constructive and reasonable debate to all interested. Sorry to leave you hanging, but time pressures prevail. Bye for now.

Posted by: Thomas Topmiller | Feb 11, 2007 9:29:41 PM

I think its a great idea to increase the pilot retirement age from 60 to 65. But I still don't understand why we have a pilot shortage?

Posted by: Jack | Jan 4, 2008 10:30:24 PM

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