The FAA today published a Request for Comments on the issue of whether the US should amend FAR 121.383(c) (the Age 60 Rule) to increase the upper age limit for airline pilots up to age 65 provided another crewmember pilot is under age 60. The FAA’s inquiry corresponds with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) expected adoption of an amendment in November, 2006 that will implement this rule change.
The current rule, adopted in 1959, “prohibits any person from serving as a pilot, on an airplane engaged in operations under part 121 if that person has reached his or her 60th birthday.” In response to the ICAO’s anticipated action, the FAA created an Age 60 Aviation Rulemaking Committee (“ARC”) to provide “a forum for the U.S. aviation community to discuss the new ICAO standard, make recommendations as to whether the United States should adopt that standard, and determine what actions would be necessary if FAA were to change the regulation to meet the new ICAO standard.”
Comments on the Age 60 issue (Docket Number FAA-2006-26139) are due on or before November 15, 2006. If you would like further information, you may contact Dr. Fred Tilton, Federal Air Surgeon, Office of Aerospace Medicine, Federal Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20591; telephone: 202-267-3537.
This issue has been brewing for many, many years. Over the years, many pilots have sought exemption from the rule and have challenged the rule in court. However, in every instance, the exemption petitions have been denied and the courts have deferred to the federal air surgeon’s discretion in mandating the Age 60 rule.
Interestingly, Mr. Tilton’s Federal Air Surgeon’s Column in the latest edition of the Federal Air Surgeon’s Medical Bulletin discusses this issue. Although he states that the research studies performed in the past have been “insufficient to support a change” in the rule, he appears (at least in the article) to have an open mind towards the ARC process and the upcoming debate. In light of the FAA’s recent rulemaking actions to amend the FAR’s to make them more consistent with ICAO standards, it will be interesting to see whether this trend continues with amendment of the Age 60 rule.