Sen. Graham Calls for Increasing Pilot Retirement Age

 - July 26, 2022, 12:00 PM

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), joined by a handful of other Republican Senators, yesterday introduced a bill that would edge up the airline pilot retirement age from 65 to 67. The legislation, the Let Experienced Pilots Fly Act (S.4607), stipulates that pilots older than 65 must maintain first-class FAA medicals, which are renewed every six months. Also, air carriers must remain in compliance with their FAA-approved pilot training and qualification programs.

In introducing the bill, Graham estimated that some 5,000 airline pilots will be forced to retire in the next two years, exacerbating a looming shortage of pilots. The bill was introduced as Boeing was releasing its latest outlook forecasting a need for 602,000 pilots over the next 20 years.

“There is a severe and growing pilot shortage in the U.S. Every air traveler sees and feels the impact when they go to the airport,” Graham said. “One of the biggest causes of air delays is a lack of available crews. My legislation…will make an immediate and appreciable difference in keeping highly-trained pilots on the job.”

Co-sponsoring the legislation are Sens. John Thune (R-South Dakota), Deb Fischer (R-Nebraska), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming), and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee). Those senators echoed concerns about pilot shortages and airline delays.

The bill has drawn mixed industry reactions. National Air Carrier Association president and CEO George Novak called the action “timely” and said it would mitigate the shortage. With action, he said, “airlines will continue to reduce service to less profitable smaller and rural communities at a time when demand for domestic air travel is exceeding pre-pandemic levels.”

However, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) International opposed the bill, calling it a misguided attempt to solve a problem that does not exist. “This legislation is yet another attempt to distract the conversation from the real issue, which is that some U.S. airlines have clearly failed to plan for the industry’s comeback that we are experiencing today,” said ALPA president Joe DePete. “There is no reason to change the retirement age and doing so would only increase costs for airlines and introduce unnecessary risks to passengers and crew alike.”