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Sat, Sep 22, 2007

Age 65 Rule Passes House Muster, But Faces Tough Battle

Proposal May Be Removed In Compromise

Overshadowed in the significance House Resolution 2881 -- the House of Representatives plan for FAA funding reauthorization -- represents to general aviation, was a proposal of great importance to commercial airline pilots, as well.

Older airline pilots fighting to raise the mandatory retirement age fromn 60 to 65 won a big victory Thursday, as the House passed the "FAA Reauthorization Act of 2007" -- which contains language to do exactly that. As ANN reported, the bill passed the House by a 267-151 vote.

"We're over another hurdle and on to the next hurdle," Southwest Airlines captain Paul Emens, who is chairman of Airline Pilots Against Age Discrimination, told the Chicago Tribune.

Speaking of hurdles, the proposal probably hasn't cleared the biggest one yet. The House plan will have to be reconciled with the Senate's plan, which should be passed in the next few weeks. The current Senate plan, S.1300, also includes language raising the retirement age... but that language could be tossed before it comes to vote, or before the final compromise bill is approved.

The Tribune notes the House vote on H.R. 2881 fell short of the 2/3 majority required to override a presidential veto... which was also threatened this week.

The issue deeply divides airline pilots, and their unions. Older pilots, understandably, are all for anything that keeps them in the cockpit -- and earning a paycheck -- five years longer; younger pilots, hoping to ascend through the seniority ranks as older pilots retire, are opposed to keeping those older pilots flying.

Several groups opposed to the plan also say older pilots may pose safety concerns... including fatigue and health issues brought on by older age.

"For us, it's a no-brainer," said Gregg Overman, spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, which represents American Airline pilots. "As far as we're concerned, age 60 should continue to serve as a highly effective safety regulation."

The FAA also reportedly has a plan in the works to raise the retirement age to 65, to bring US carriers in line with international standards.

Emens notes it could take months for Congress and the White House to hammer out details... and in that time, 600 pilots will be forced to retire.

"We're fighting for the careers of people who are at risk," he said. Pilots forced to retire at 60 won't be able to go back to their jobs at the level they left, if Age 65 is adopted after they leave.



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