The FAA today published its Final Rule and Disposition of Comments regarding SFAR 103 previously published on January 7, 2005. SFAR 103 established procedures and some standards by which an air traffic controller may request a waiver of the mandatory separation age. The Final Rule confirms that SFAR No. 103 remains in effect as adopted and it also disposes of the comments it received.
The FAA received comments from 16 individuals. Many of them objected to the “exceptional skills and experience” standard that will be used to grant an exception but the FAA believes that the rule contains an appropriate standard to be used by the Administrator and it deferred to Congress’s establishment of that standard in 5 U.S.C. 8335(a). In response to comments regarding the rules lack of reference to medical qualifications, the FAA stated that “[a]ny controller granted a waiver will still have to meet the rigorous medical standards for air traffic controllers, including passing the annual air traffic controller physical examination.”
Although some comments objected to the rule’s lack of appeal rights, the Final Rule states that all requests for waiver will be given “full and due consideration” and the granting of a waiver will be at the sole discretion of the administrator. Applicants will not have a right to appeal or grieve a denial or termination of an exemption.
As I indicated in my post at the time SFAR 103 was initially published, it isn’t clear to me why an air traffic controller, who is required to meet medical qualifications similar to a pilot and has an equally significant role in air safety, should be able to obtain a waiver of the mandatory separation age of 56 when a pilot cannot obtain a waiver to the age 60 rule. Seems arbitrary and discriminatory to me. But until Congress legislates otherwise, it is almost certain that the FAA will stick by the age 60 rule without waiver.