A US Senate committee has voted down a measure in the Federal Aviation Administration’s five-year spending reauthorisation bill that would have raised the mandatory pilot retirement age from 65 to 67 years old. 

The Senate Committee for Commerce, Science and Transportation voted 14-13 to reject the proposal to raise the retirement age, which has been championed by some as a solution to the country’s pilot shortage. 

The FAA recently warned Washington lawmakers not to change the pilot retirement age, calling for further research. 

Industry advocacy group the Regional Airline Association says it is “disappointed with a party-line vote against raising the mandatory pilot retirement age, which would improve pilot supply and mitigate the attrition of regional airline captains”. 

”RAA notes that the FAA certified 11,225 new pilots in 2023, while major airlines hired 12,193,” the group says. ”Allowing experienced pilots the option of working up to two years longer would narrow the supply and demand gap, while allowing time for the supply-enhancing programmes of this bill to take effect.” 

Pilots outside aircraft

Source: Thiago B Trevisan/Shutterstock

US lawmkers voted down an attempt to raise the mandatory retirement age for most US pilots 

Meanwhile, major unions such as the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA) and the Allied Pilots Association (APA), which represents the 15,000 pilots that fly for American Airlines, applauded the decision. 

APA “opposes any increase to the retirement age”, it says. 

”By fighting back against collective attempts to introduce uncertainty, risk and changes to collective bargaining agreements by  by increasing the pilot retirement age and rolling back training requirements, this bill will help ensure our country remains a global leader in aviation,” says ALPA president Jason Ambrosi. 

Meanwhile, the committee advanced the broader FAA Reauthorization Act of 2023, including boosting FAA funding to hire more air traffic controllers and inspectors. The bill authorises some $107 billion in spending for 2024-28. 

”To address the air traffic controller shortage, the bill mandates that the FAA implement new staffing models to close the current gap of 3,000 controllers and requires the FAA to beef up staffing to close the 20% shortage of FAA safety inspectors responsible for certification and production oversight,” the committee says. 

The bill was approved by the US House of Representatives in July, but the push to pass a spending bill for the USA’s civil aviation regulator has been energised by Boeing’s recent 737 Max 9 safety scare. 

The FAA’s current funding authority is set to expire on 8 March.