Retirement age for pilots raised to 65

December 14, 2007|By Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO -- A controversial rule mandating that U.S. airline pilots retire by their 60th birthday has been repealed, ending a half-century of infighting among pilots.

The U.S. Senate unanimously approved legislation Wednesday night raising the retirement age for pilots to 65, a standard observed by the rest of the world.

The House of Representative unanimously approved the measure Tuesday night. The new legislation was signed yesterday by President Bush.

The retirement age rule has long been a point of contention among pilots, especially this decade as a downturn stalled promotions for younger pilots and upended retirement plans for those at the end of their careers.

Older pilots whose airlines scrapped their employee pension plans during the spate of recent airline bankruptcies were doubly hurt by the rule. They lost generous airline payouts and were further penalized by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., which assumed control of the pension plans, because they retired before they were 65.

Many younger pilots, meanwhile, saw their opportunities to move up to higher-paying positions stall as airlines shrank their aircraft fleets and canceled orders for new planes.

Some worried about safety, contending that pilots over age 60 were less able to adjust to the longer work hours that airlines adopted during the downturn that followed the Sept. 11 attacks.

The movement to establish a new retirement age gained momentum this year when both the Federal Aviation Administration and the nation's largest pilot union endorsed moving to the global standard.

The legislation passed by Congress would not apply retroactively to pilots who have already turned 60.

Bloomberg News contributed to this article.

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