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Pilots would be able to fly commercial planes for an additional two years under an amendment added to House aviation legislation to respond to increased demand for workers.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Wednesday narrowly approved an amendment by a 32-31 vote that would increase the mandatory retirement age for commercial airline pilots to 67, up from 65. The provision now is included in sweeping legislation (H.R. 3935) to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration. The panel is still working to complete its marathon markup of the FAA bill — which would then need to pass on the House floor and be negotiated with the Senate.
“Never before have US airlines been more desperate for pilots,” Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas), who sponsored the amendment, said as the panel debated the measure Tuesday. Nehls noted that there isn’t the same restriction for pilots of private or charter planes.
Thousands of certified pilots will reach the mandatory retirement age each year over the next two decades, according to the Government Accountability Office. Some pilots and groups representing regional and low-cost airlines have pushed Congress to change the retirement age to keep them on until they turn 67.
Opponents say raising the retirement age, which last increased to 65 from 60 in 2007, is a short-term fix to a long-term challenge, and one that raises scheduling and safety concerns. Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), ranking member of the committee, urged lawmakers to oppose the amendment. But Republicans stood behind the proposal.
“Our pilot shortage is right now,” Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), chairman of the aviation subcommittee, said during the markup, pointing to how medical testing would ensure that pilots can fly safely. “Sixty-five years old is not old.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Lillianna Byington in Washington at email@example.com