Sunday, June 30, 2013
Since the late 1950's, federal law has required commercial airline pilots to retire on their 60th birthday, without exception. The mandatory retirement rule has an interesting and tortured history and many question the basis for the law (a concern about heart attacks supposedly.)
Congress ultimately enacted the “Fair Treatment of Experienced Pilots Act” in 2007 ("FTEPA"). The law now allows a commercial airline pilot to fly until attaining 65 years of age provided s/he operate in multi-crew aircraft operations alongside another pilot who is younger than 60 years of age (e.g., the “over/under rule”). 49 U.S.C. § 44729. The “Age 65 Rule” is not retroactive as to 60-year-old aviators when the law passed, generating recent litigation.
So the law is settled, right? Well sort of. There were many pilots who turned 60 before or on the date the FTEPA became law. Whether they would be "grandfathered" has been litigated in many courts.
As a practical matter, it is an open question whether there is any scientific basis to keep 65 years as the mandatory age requirement.