ATLhomeCMH
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Old Pilots Appeal To U.S. Congress

Thu Sep 16, 2004 2:53 am

This article in today's (9/15) Atlanta Journal-Constitution Delta Insider section brings up some interesting questions about aging pilots.

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Some pilots fight for right to fly past 60; change unlikely for now

By VANESSA MALTIN
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 09/15/04

WASHINGTON — A faction of airline pilots who want Congress to raise the mandatory retirement age of 60 took its case to a Senate panel Tuesday.

The Federal Aviation Administration rule was put in place in 1959 to ensure safety, but pilots and their supporters told the Senate Aging Committee that it is a form of age discrimination.

"The rule was implemented under the premise that the risk of incapacitation due to medical causes after 60 years of age was unacceptably high," said Dr. Russell Rayman, executive director of the Aerospace Medical Association.

"But ... sudden incapacitation is always a possibility at any age," Rayman said. "Even if there were such an occurrence, there is always a second pilot in the cockpit who could rapidly take control should the need arise."

Rayman said there has never been an airline accident caused by a pilot medical emergency.

"Regardless of the FAA's intent in 1959, surely today a rule requiring the nation's most well-trained and experienced pilots to retire at 60 does not appear to have any scientific or medical basis," said Joseph Eichelkraut, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots' Association and a captain for the carrier.

"Pilots — along with the entire population — are living longer, healthier lives than when the age-60 rule was enacted in 1959," he said.

Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, agreed.

"The mandatory retirement rules for pilots were established in 1959 — 45 years ago. I believe that we now need to look for ways to enable healthy and able airline pilots to continue to pilot commercial aircraft," he said.

Craig said he expects Congress will soon act, though likely not before its adjournment in a few weeks.

The call for raising the retirement age is not new, and it faces a significant obstacle: probable opposition from the Air Line Pilots Association, which represents 64,000 pilots at 42 U.S. and Canadian airlines, including United, US Airways, Delta and Continental.

ALPA did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday's hearing. In 2001, it opposed legislation that would have raised the retirement age.

ALPA President Duane Woerth told a Senate committee then that his organization would not support raising the age without the full support of the FAA. The FAA said at the time it had no conclusive evidence that it was safe for pilots to continue flying after age 60.

Advocates of a higher age believe ALPA's opposition is rooted in its desire to move older pilots out at 60 so that younger pilots can advance into better-paying jobs.

Also at Tuesday's hearing, Eugene Freedman, a member of the policy council for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, testified that air traffic controllers should still retire at age 56.

"The risks of stress levels, potential health problems and declining cognitive abilities are the same today [for controllers]," he said.

In the next decade, nearly half of the nation's air traffic controllers will be forced to retire, Craig said. Freedman suggested that instead of allowing air traffic controllers to work longer, thousands of new controllers should be hired and trained.

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60 isn't young, but there are many active and fit 60 year olds. My personal view is that if they still meet the physical and cognitive standards, they should be able to fly past 60...but I do think that there needs to be a cut off age.

If not 60, what should the cut off age be?

"The most terrifying words in the Engligh language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"-Ronald Reagan
 
flyingbronco05
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RE: Old Pilots Appeal To U.S. Congress

Thu Sep 16, 2004 2:57 am

60 isn't young, but there are many active and fit 60 year olds. My personal view is that if they still meet the physical and cognitive standards, they should be able to fly past 60...but I do think that there needs to be a cut off age.

If not 60, what should the cut off age be?


I agree with you on this. As long as they are in shape, let them fly. I think the cut off should be 65 for now.
Never Trust Your Fuel Gauge
 
airtran737
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RE: Old Pilots Appeal To U.S. Congress

Thu Sep 16, 2004 3:00 am

As long as you can keep your medical, I say keep on patrolling the friendly skies.
Nice Trip Report!!! Great Pics, thanks for posting!!!! B747Forever
 
mm320cap
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RE: Old Pilots Appeal To U.S. Congress

Thu Sep 16, 2004 3:29 am

This is one of the most contentious issues dwelling in the pilot population today. With the threat of cancelled pensions, pay cuts, loss of health benefits, etc., there will be a major increase in the pressure to have the mandatory retirement age raised.

On the other side of the coin...

I know the history of the age 60 rule. I don't have the time or space here to go into all the different sides of the argument, but I'll hit the high points. If not 60, then what? 65? Where did that number come from? In my opinion, if you are going to claim age discrimination, then stick with it, and fight to abolish ANY mandatory age. How is 65 any less discriminatory than 60? The next argument is that anyone that can pass a medical should be able to continue to fly. The sad truth is that our 1st class medical is a joke. Sorry, but it is true. It is not sufficient to weed out any but the most obvious of health problems. Third argument is that pilots are living longer and staying healthier. True, but the job is getting more demanding. When the rule was set up, pilots weren't flying 15 hours at a stretch across 10 time zones. Nor were they flying 95 hours a month, which is what I'm lining up to do at United by the end of September. Flying down to Australia and back 3 to 4 times a month is flat out exhausting. If you don't believe me, try it!! There is a reason many 60 year old pilots look like they are 80. All that jet lag is extremely tough on the body.

Last, but certainly not least. Yes, there are many many pilots that are perfectly capable of flying past age 60 with a high degree of safety. However, there are pilots who unfortunately have seen their motor and cognitive skills decline so steeply at that age that they become a liability in the cockpit. I've flown with several in my career. The problem is, there is no adequate test which identifies who falls into what category. The argument is then brought that pilot incapacitation is not much of a factor as there are 2 pilots in the cockpit. Yes, but what happens if one pilot has a massive incapacitation during the landing flare and slumps over onto the yoke? Or what about at rotation in a heavily loaded 747? Of course that could happen with a 30 year old too, but why increase the risk? The age 60 rule has worked just fine for almost 50 years. Every pilot flying was hired under the existing rule, and has been expected to abide by it. I won't even mention the crippling financial aspect of the issue of re-hiring, re-training etc. reitred pilots for the already struggling major carriers. We used to employ past 60 pilots as flight engineers at United. The sick leave useage was astronomical within that pilot group, costing United millions.

That being said, I genuinely sympathize with the pilots that are being foreced into retirement right now with their financial futures being so uncertain.
Best of luck to us all.
 
bucky707
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RE: Old Pilots Appeal To U.S. Congress

Thu Sep 16, 2004 3:56 am

"We used to employ past 60 pilots as flight engineers at United. The sick leave useage was astronomical within that pilot group, costing United millions."



Thats a great argument against raising the age. At Delta, we had a number of over 60 engineers for a while. Same thing, their sick leave rate was through the roof.
 
jjbiv
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RE: Old Pilots Appeal To U.S. Congress

Thu Sep 16, 2004 4:53 am

This is a political issue with a safety facade. Sadly, logic won't work to defeat it.

joe
 
ltbewr
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RE: Old Pilots Appeal To U.S. Congress

Thu Sep 16, 2004 6:03 am

How about the mid-50 manditory retirement from full duty of ATC people (they can transfer into supervisory positions, not involving full time ATC work)? That is probably more stressful than a full pilot at the same age. Probably one reason for the 60 rule is the almost total population of people that age whom need corrective lenses to be able to fly or read. One issue is that what do you do if you retire at 60? You still have many years of life ahead of you, and maybe 5 or more years of working life left, your airline's pension funds are doing a death spiral and may be a fraction of expectations and what kind of job paying that of a pilot can you get at that age? There should be some flexibility, perhaps a stricter medical exam at age 60, and a pilot allowed to fly with annual or 2 year renewals up until age 64. This would allow experienced pilots whom want to continue working for a few more years in a job they love, probably not at much more cost to an airline.
 
FriendlySkies
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RE: Old Pilots Appeal To U.S. Congress

Thu Sep 16, 2004 9:48 pm

There's no mandatory age when you can't drive, as long as you pass the test. I say it should be the same for pilots. If they can pass the test, let 'em fly. I'd rather have an older pilot, they have more experience, and the landings are always smooth! Big grin
 
luv2fly
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RE: Old Pilots Appeal To U.S. Congress

Thu Sep 16, 2004 9:54 pm

I have to agree with the age of 60 like others have mentioned the demands and actual flying hours are now longer than when this rule was first put into effect.
You can cut the irony with a knife
 
FoxHunter
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RE: Old Pilots Appeal To U.S. Congress

Thu Sep 16, 2004 10:12 pm

In regard to sick leave. If you turn 60 and have 10 months of unused sick leave which you get zero pay for any unused sick leave when you retire. Were these pilots sick or did they have eye trouble? Couldn't see going to work. These individuals probably had all that sick leave because they enjoyed their job. When they became S/Os that enjoyment went away. The guys that don't tend to use it up long before they get to 60.
 
ATLhomeCMH
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RE: Old Pilots Appeal To U.S. Congress

Thu Sep 16, 2004 10:21 pm

LTBEWR:

I agree w/ your post. And it also brings up the ATC issue.

Now, granted--I'm not a controller or an airline pilot, but the impression that I get (from publicized occupational health case studies, as well as from friends in the industry) is that ATC is a much more stressful job than actually being in the cockpit.

If this is the case, I can see why the ATC retirement age is set where it is.

Now, I may be way off my mark here. Like I said, that's only the impression I get from various case studies in the media....and b/c it was in the media is precisely why I question it.  Smile

Any thoughts?
"The most terrifying words in the Engligh language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"-Ronald Reagan
 
FoxHunter
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RE: Old Pilots Appeal To U.S. Congress

Thu Sep 16, 2004 10:25 pm


Times are changing,

AGE 60 RESOLUTION PASSES ALPA EXECUTIVE BOARD.


With the support of Duane Woerth, the full Executive Board voted unanimously
to pass a resolution to educate the membership on the age 60 rule and to
poll the membership.

This will be the first time that ALPA has polled the membership on this issue.


SUBJECT: Age 60 Education Campaign

SOURCE: MEA MEC

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

The financial crisis in the airline industry has created a significant burden on tens of thousands of ALPA pilots’ retirement funds through decreased earnings and plan changes and terminations. This is in addition to the immediate impact of furloughs and downgrades. More and more pilots are becoming concerned that they may be forced to work beyond age 60 as a result of diminished retirement funds combined with the rising cost of retiree medical due to the gap between the mandatory retirement age and the age at which the pilot becomes eligible for social Security and Medicare benefits.

Arguments have been posed among the membership both in favor and against the mandatory retirement age that includes as much speculation as they do emotion….

PROPOSED RESOLUTION:

WHEREAS the current financial crisis in the airline industry has caused tens of thousands of ALPA pilots to experience a dramatic and permanent reduction in their career earnings through furloughs, pay cuts, displacements, and reduced promotion and job opportunities, and

WHEREAS a significant proportion of ALPA’s membership has also experienced an erosion in their projected retirement earnings through a variety of factors, including the dramatic and permanent reduction in their career earnings; lower-than-expected investment returns due to declines in the equity markets, and increasing pressure on defined benefits plans, including reductions in benefits, the freezing of future benefit accruals, or the termination of these plans, and

WHEREAS many ALPA pilot groups have not been able to successfully bargain for defined benefit plans, and

WHEREAS the negotiating environment is not favorable to addressing these issues in the near future, and

WHEREAS the cost of retiree medical insurance has increased dramatically over the years, and

WHEREAS airline pilots in the U.S. are required to retire at age 60, and

WHEREAS ALPA policy is to endorse mandatory retirement at age 60, and

WHEREAS there is a significant between the mandatory retirement age for pilots in the U.S. and the age at which many pilots are eligible to receive Social Security and Medicare Benefits, and

WHEREAS the current White House Administration has not been amendable to addressing these issues, and

WHEREAS an increasing number of ALPA pilots are concerned that they may be compelled to work either in other professions or as pilots outside the U.S. beyond the current U.S. mandatory retirement age due to a reduction in their career earnings, retirement earnings, and/or to bridge their income and medical benefits to Medicare and Social Security, and

WHEREAS the Age 60 Rule is a safety rule established the FAA in 1959, and…

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the President is hereby directed to initiate a thorough communications effort to educate the U.S. ALPA membership regarding the rationale for the existence of the Age 60 Rule and the possible implications of increasing the mandatory retirement age, including the impact on career earnings, retirement earnings, defined benefit plan provisions and funding, pilot medical certification standards, and air safety, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this communications effort shall include a poll of the U.S. ALPA membership regarding mandatory retirement age issues, including their views regarding ALPA’s Age 60 policy, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the President is also directed to report on the status of this initiative to the May 2005 Executive Board.

 
Stretch 8
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RE: Old Pilots Appeal To U.S. Congress

Thu Sep 16, 2004 10:35 pm

Well, since these new Airbus and Boeing jets practically fly themselves, why not let the fossils hang around for a few more years? But insist on paycuts for the older dads.
Maggs swings, it's a drive deep to left! The Tigers are going to the World Series!!!
 
planespotting
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RE: Old Pilots Appeal To U.S. Congress

Thu Sep 16, 2004 10:42 pm

here is a reason why us young pilots (who have yet to be hired by an airline) like the age 60 rule.

in the next 8 years or so, approximately 40% of all airline pilots will be forced to retire. this is the vietnam era class of pilots who came of age in the mid 60's and early 70's.
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FoxHunter
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RE: Old Pilots Appeal To U.S. Congress

Thu Sep 16, 2004 10:45 pm

"Well, since these new Airbus and Boeing jets practically fly themselves, why not let the fossils hang around for a few more years? But insist on paycuts for the older dads."

It appears to me it is the youngsters that have to have the autopilot on by 500' off at 200'. I was actually looking for a little more pay for babysitting. Big grin
 
ltbewr
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RE: Old Pilots Appeal To U.S. Congress

Fri Sep 17, 2004 12:06 am

I think the post by FoxHunter is important in that notes that ALPA is recognizing the conflicting issues of the current age 60 retirement rule of pilots in the USA. While ALPA's premises their review on educating members, government agencies on retaining age 60 retirement, to review with their members the need to consider a more flexible policy is a sound one and a proper way for a union to deal with such issues. That they will take about a year to review the policy may come unfortuntaly too late for a number of pilots/member pilots.
 
Lindy
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RE: Old Pilots Appeal To U.S. Congress

Fri Sep 17, 2004 12:21 am

I think that the age 60 rule should be as it is. Why? I'm not saying that 60 yo is too old to fly, but move on, make some space for young pilots. You are 60yo, enjoy rest of your life!

"Rayman said there has never been an airline accident caused by a pilot medical emergency."
Acctualy there was. If I remember correctly, when BOAC Trident crashed in UK, they found that pilot had brain tumor and it could have have effect on the crash.

Rafal
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FoxHunter
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RE: Old Pilots Appeal To U.S. Congress

Fri Sep 17, 2004 12:45 am

"I think that the age 60 rule should be as it is. Why? I'm not saying that 60 yo is too old to fly, but move on, make some space for young pilots. You are 60yo, enjoy rest of your life!

"Rayman said there has never been an airline accident caused by a pilot medical emergency."
Acctualy there was. If I remember correctly, when BOAC Trident crashed in UK, they found that pilot had brain tumor and it could have have effect on the crash.

Rafal"

The Captain on that BEA not BOAC Trident was far below age 60. Where I work there was a pilot that died of a number of years ago of a brain tumor, age 30. When I can get back my 8 years of furlough time I'll be glad to make room for you, but then I would have to work to age 68. Smile



 
AA717driver
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RE: Old Pilots Appeal To U.S. Congress

Fri Sep 17, 2004 1:34 am

The reason sick leave usage skyrocketed for the ROPES, Herpes, whatever you want to call them, is that they used to be widebody captains and thought it was B.S. that they sit back and pass gas and change reading lights at that point. They were burning their sick leave--taking additional paid vacation.

The problem is that you can always find a creampuff medical examiner to give you a first class medical. And, by that time in your career, you can pass a sim check in your sleep. There are no enforcable standards to judge when someone should retire. If you have enough people go to the chief pilot and say this guy shouldn't be here, the union will go defend him. If they don't, someone may be unfairly terminated.

It's a can of worms.TC
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aa777jr
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RE: Old Pilots Appeal To U.S. Congress

Fri Sep 17, 2004 2:56 am

I agree, if they can pass a physical a few times a year, I see no problem with a guy flying until he is 65 or even later in years. My granps is 81 and still works on the ranch like 4 hrs a day in the heat of the day. Some people just refuse to give up doing what they love and I definitely can agree with all the above.

AA777jr
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