Sir - The US Federal Aviation Administration has tried to increase the retirement age for US airline captains from 60 to 65, but its efforts were rejected by the self-interest of the US Airline Pilots Association (ALPA), which cannot be truly representative of experienced US pilots' views, as a high percentage of the vote comes from second officers, who choose to fly as flight engineers.

Although they are pilots, as opposed to professional flight engineers, they cannot be compared with the professional flight engineer.

Additionally, a high number of US second and first officers forgo promotion, to base where they choose and, from personal experience with a previous non-US carrier which followed the so-called "American contract", pilots who failed to upgrade when basings closed down, or who made a decision to upgrade when they were not au fait with the total airline route structure, often failed, for the simple reason that they had let their standards lapse without the inducement or desire to achieve command.

At a time when Oriental carriers are doing well and looking for experienced commanders to allow airline expansion, they are stymied by ALPA's refusal to vote for a 65-year retirement age. It is high time that the FAA circumvents this approach, and forces a law through Congress to allow pilots to fly in command of international jets, and others, to age 65.

Unless action is taken soon, the level of experienced international pilots worldwide will fall to dangerous levels, as criteria for command will have to be lowered drastically just to fill the left-hand seats as expansion continues, particularly in Asia.

Peter Sykes



Source: Flight International