Pilot shortage: Republicans launch bill to raise retirement age from 65 to 67
Republicans launch bill to raise pilots’ retirement age from 65 to 67 – to avoid 14,000 resigning over the next five years and reverse the crippling deficit causing travel chaos
- The Let Experienced Pilots Fly Act was introduced by South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Texas House Rep. Chip Roy
- It comes amid a months-long shortage of pilots showing no signs of easing
- Shortage contributes to the travel chaos since the fall of the COVID measures
- Roy called it an ‘artificial deficit’ and blamed Democrats’ COVID lockdowns
- Biden administration opposes raising mandatory retirement age for commercial airline pilots, citing safety concerns
- The US last raised the mandatory maximum retirement age from 60 in 2007
Republicans in Congress on Monday unveiled legislation to address the growing pilot shortage by raising the profession’s mandatory retirement age by two years.
Texas Rep. Chip Roy and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina introduced the Let Experienced Pilots Fly Act, which would change the retirement age for commercial airline pilots from 65 to 67.
The crippling shortage is one of the main drivers of the chaos at airports across the country that has only gotten worse as travel returns to pre-pandemic levels.
If left unchanged, the United States could see 14,000 pilots leave its workforce within the next five years, according to a study cited by lawmakers.
Another assessment they highlighted found that the pilot shortage would reach 12,000 across the continent by 2023.
But the Biden administration has already opposed the change, citing security concerns.
In a statement to the press, Roy blamed Democrats’ COVID-19 lockdown measures for creating the deficit.
After the heavy-handed stupidity of the government’s lockdowns, the demand for travel has naturally skyrocketed. However, Americans are now experiencing flight delays and cancellations on an unacceptable scale due to an increasing shortage of pilots,” Roy said.
“A key factor is a government-imposed retirement age that forces thousands of our most qualified pilots each year.”
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham (left) and Texas Rep. Chip Roy (right) introduced the bill Monday. Roy said it would “immediately alleviate” the pilot shortage if passed. Graham expressed confidence that the measure would be twofold
Amending his bill, he said, “would immediately alleviate the effects of this artificial deficit.”
Graham expressed confidence that the bill could gain votes from Democrats at a press conference on Monday.
“We need to get more people in line to become pilots, but we also need to adjust our age in a fairly rational way to keep people in the cockpit,” the senator said.
“In other countries people are allowed to fly to 67 and beyond.”
While early retirements and layoffs due to the pandemic, as well as reduced travel, have fueled the exacerbation of the pilot crisis, a number of factors have pushed it into its plight today.
The rapid expansion of coverage by airlines over the past year, such as JetBlue and Spirit Airlines announcing dozens of new routes, significantly surpassed the levels at which they got staff back.
Carriers canceled at least 2,200 flights over the weekend of July 4 and another 25,000 were delayed.
It comes after thousands of flights were canceled or delayed during the most recent holiday season, the weekend of July 4th
Another traditional way of hiring pilots is to recruit retired Air Force pilots. However, in addition to the military’s shift in focus from pilots to soldiers manning drones from a remote location, the industry also struggles with its own shortfall.
According to Congressional testimony highlighted by CBS News, the Air Force was short of 2,100 pilots in 2020.
The Republicans’ new bill would not change any of the other Federal Aviation Administration regulations or the requirements of private airlines to become a pilot.
Previously, the mandatory retirement age was raised from 60 to 65 in 2007.
But Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg poured cold water on the event during a Fox News interview earlier this month.
“I’m much more interested in raising the bar on things like pay and quality of work than lowering the bar on things like safety,” Buttigieg said of the potential measure.
“The United States of America should be able to have a robust aviation system without lowering our expectations of security, and I will consider and maintain anything that does not compromise security.”