Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) joined Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) to introduce the Let Experienced Pilots Fly Act to address airline flight cancellations caused by a shortage of pilots. Roughly 5,000 fully-qualified pilots will be forced to retire in the next two years. The wave of forced pilot retirements continues – even as hundreds of flights are being canceled due to a shortage of available pilots and crews. Among other provisions, this proposal would raise the mandatory commercial pilot retirement age from 65 to 67 to help address the shortage.
“Long delays and cancellations have become all too common in airports across the country, including in Iowa. Part of the reason is due to a shortage of pilots, which has unfortunately caused some airlines to cancel service to Iowa regional airports. By allowing healthy pilots to extend their careers if they choose, our proposal is one step we can take to ensure Iowans have better access to commercial air service, quickly alleviate airport congestion and get Americans to their destinations in a timely manner,” Grassley said.
“I applaud Senator Grassley’s efforts to take steps to combat the nationwide pilot shortage. Raising the pilot retirement age will provide medically-fit crew the option to continue flying and help fill the shortage. Without solutions to the pilot shortage problem, regional airports like DBQ and others across the nation will continue to see reductions and loss of service,” said Todd Dalsing, Dubuque Airport director and Iowa Public Airport Association president.
“As a community that has been directly and adversely impacted by the pilot shortage in commercial aviation, we strongly support this legislation and wish to commend Senator Grassley and his peers who are supporting this effort. The fact of the matter is that with the extraordinary levels of health and fitness so common today, especially among pilots, we should be elevating their retirement age well past 65 years old to ensure our most experienced aviators remain in the sky, regardless of the current crisis,” said Chris McGowan, Siouxland Chamber of Commerce president.
In 2007, the retirement age for pilots in the U.S. was raised from 60 to 65 after medical reports concluded age had an “insignificant impact” on performance in the cockpit, and there were safety precautions already in place to prevent accidents in case of incapacitation. Nothing in this legislation changes current safety and proficiency procedures for commercial pilots. Pilots will continue to be held to an incredibly high standard to ensure passenger safety.
- Raises the mandatory commercial pilot retirement age from 65 to 67.
- Requires that pilots over the age of 65 maintain a first-class medical certification, which must be renewed every six months.
- Requires air carriers to continue using pilot training and qualification programs approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
- Does not change or alter any other qualification – beyond age – to become a commercial airline pilot.