The Allied Pilots Association (APA), representing the 12,000 pilots of American Airlines, released the results of two recently conducted polls that demonstrate strong continuing support for maintaining mandatory retirement at age 60 for the nation’s commercial pilots. In the first poll, 86 percent of American Airlines pilots favored the current retirement rule, while 12 percent reported that they wanted a change—an overwhelming 7-to-1 margin.
When the poll results were broken down by age, they showed that even the oldest pilots expressed a desire to maintain mandatory retirement at age 60. Furthermore, the safety of the traveling public was cited as the No. 1 reason for maintaining the current regulation. This poll was conducted by the Wilson Center for Public Research, a professional survey organization with extensive experience conducting polls on behalf of a wide variety of pilot groups and other labor organizations. The poll, conducted by phone, used a stratified random sample that resulted in an accurate cross-section of the American Airlines pilot group. A total of 600 interviews were conducted, providing a sample margin of error of 4 percent.
APA also conducted an in-house, Internet-based survey. Of the 2,496 American Airlines pilots who responded, 79 percent indicated they support maintaining mandatory retirement at age 60, while 18 percent indicated they desire a change.
Federal Aviation Administrator Marion C. Blakey recently announced that the FAA will issue a formal Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) later this year that calls for raising retirement age to 65 to comply with a newly adopted international standard. Ironically, this untested standard requires that at least one pilot on the flight deck be under 60 years old, indicating that there continue to be legitimate concerns about how old is too old to operate commercial aircraft.
Since the FAA established age 60 retirement 48 years ago, not one single airline accident has been attributed to the sudden or subtle effects of aging. Multiple studies have shown that a pilot’s mental and physical performance is impaired with increasing age, and there is no definitive medical or functional test that can determine which pilots could safely fly past age 60.
“The FAA should consider the concerns of the men and women in the cockpits who have personally witnessed the impact of advancing age on their fellow pilots,” said APA President Captain Ralph Hunter. “APA strongly supports the current mandatory retirement age of 60 until the FAA can definitely establish that there will be no decrease in the current level of flight safety. Without this assurance, any change would be tantamount to conducting an experiment on the traveling public.”
Founded in 1963, the Allied Pilots Association—the largest independent pilot union in the U.S.—is headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas. APA represents the 12,000 pilots of American Airlines, including more than 2,800 pilots on furlough. The furloughs began shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Also, several hundred American Airlines pilots are on full-time military leave of absence serving in the armed forces. The union’s Web site address is www.alliedpilots.org .