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Republican lawmakers are introducing legislation that would raise the mandatory retirement age for commercial airline pilots from 65 to 67, but the effort to quell chaos and cancellations at our nation’s airports will only exacerbate current challenges for airlines, one pilot told Fox News.
Persisting delays and cancellations continue to upend summer travel plans, in large part due to a shortage of airline pilots plaguing commercial airlines. Sen. Lindsey Graham on Monday introduced legislation that would extend the tenure of pilots in the cockpit by raising the federal retirement by two years.
Commercial pilot and publisher of Jetwhine.com Robert Mark told “America Reports” on Wednesday that while Graham’s idea may seem effective “on its face,” his proposed solution could end up causing “even more chaos” for airlines as most international laws do not permit commercial pilots over the age of 65 to fly into their territories.
“The downside to this is that it’s going to cause chaos, even more chaos at the airlines because we are seeing that the more senior pilots that would be retiring, that would be affected by this 67 rule, are usually pilots that are flying internationally, not just domestically here in the states,” Mark said. “And those international pilots would be restricted to no longer be able to fly internationally because the international rules just don’t allow it. So you know, again, it’s going to cause scheduling chaos for the airlines, and honestly, the shortage issue, it’s the airlines’ own making anyway.”
The bill, titled the Let Experienced Pilots Fly Act and viewed exclusively by FOX Business prior to being filed, does not make other major changes to the current law governing commercial pilot retirements. It is co-sponsored by GOP Reps. Clay Higgins, Rep. Chip Roy, Dusty Johnson, Mary Miller, Adrian Smith and Lauren Boebert. Graham has introduced the bill in the Senate.
If passed, senior pilots would have to stop international aviation at 65 and can then choose to fly domestically until the age of 67. But the shift would unnecessarily displace less senior pilots who’ve typically flown domestically by their older counterparts, Mark explained.
“If you take senior pilots that would be available for 66 and 67 and push them back into the domestic system, it’s going to push less senior pilots out of the left seat of the domestic airplanes,” he said. “And again, because of the seniority system, it’s going to push all kinds of pilots everywhere. Honestly, I don’t think it’s going to make that much difference.”
The GOP proposal to raise the age limit for commercial pilots is likely to face opposition from Democratstran after the Biden administration threw cold water on the idea earlier this month.
One forecast by consulting firm Oliver Wyman estimates North America will be short 12,000 pilots by 2023. Meanwhile, nearly 14,000 qualified U.S. pilots will be forced to retire due to the federal mandatory pilot retirement age over the next five years.
Fox Business’ Breck Dumas and Houston Keene contributed to this report.