Age 60 Rule is arousing problems and issues specifically to airline pilots with whom the policy is meant for. The "Age 60 Rule" which states a mandatory retirement for airline pilots who reach the age of 60 is now being considered discriminatory especially to experienced pilots whose skills and competence in flying is perfected by their experience and age. Despite of the fact that this policy has been supported by pilot organizations, many pilot unions now see that the "Age 60 Rule" is a problem to their aviation profession because of reasons that are based from failures of the medical science to provide sufficient information that the age of 60 is potentially unsafe for administering flights.
Reason why the "Age 60 Rule" is a Problem
The fact that the medical science is not able to produce a medical system that can provide significant and valid basis to confirm the premise being claimed that the age of 60 is adversely risky to aviation is the major reason why the "Age 60 Rule" is now a problem imposed to airline pilots. In simple terms, as time and many studies have concluded, the "Age 60 Rule" is not a valid ground to outweigh the capacity, ability, and efficiency, of airline pilots to provide a safe aviation service and therefore should not be the reason to retire the aviation profession of those pilots who may be equally capable to fly airlines if compared to younger pilots. In fact, the National Institute of Aging Review Panel, an organization responsible for providing information to support the "Age 60 Rule," indicates the following (Woerth, 2001).
"The Panel attaches no special medical significance to age 60 as a mandatory age for retirement of airline pilots ... "
"Moreover, the Panel could not identify the existence of a medical or performance appraisal system that can single out those pilots who would pose the greatest hazard because of early or impending deterioration in health or performance."
Another reason why the "Age 60 Rule" is a problem is the fact that there is already a shortage of airline pilots. With this problem, the aviation industry can be affected which can consequently affect the economy.
Evidences to the Problem
With the Congress currently doing actions to provide solution to the issues of "Age 60 Rule" is already one proof that this aviation policy is a problem not only to the airline pilots but to the aviation industry as well. Several members of the U.S. Senate and Congress are preparing bills and raising evidences that the "Age 60 Rule" is a problem especially to experience and skilled commercial pilots. In a letter of a commercial airline pilot to Sen. Ron Wyden and Sen. Gordon Smith, appealing and countering the "Age 60 Rule," the following actions of Rep. Jim Gibbons were indicated as a support to the issue against the "Age 60 Rule."
Rep. Jim Gibbons (R) re-introduced the bill, H.R. 65 to reform the FAA's age 60-retirement rule as one of his first legislative initiatives in the 109th Congress. There is a similar bill originating in the Senate, S. 65. "Our nation has thousands of experienced, skilled and capable pilots. Unfortunately, the most experienced can not fly for a commercial airline because once they turn 60, they are forced to retire," said Gibbons. "The age 60 rule imposed by the FAA has no basis in science, yet it is still on the books. It is time to rescind this outdated regulation, and allow our best experienced pilots to do their jobs."
Despite of much discipline that airline pilots take to properly care their physical health, the policy of forced retirement for those who reach the age of 60 is age discriminatory considering the fact that there is no sufficient evidence that reaching the age of 60 is relative to the ability of a pilot to fly an aircraft. As indicated by the same letter to the 2 senators, following are further evidences that the "Age 60 Rule" is a problem and hindrance to the profession of experienced pilots.
A prominent study of age and airline pilots, the Hilton Study. The study "supports the conclusion that an age 60 limit for pilots is not defensible ... " and found "no hint of an increase in accident rate for pilots of scheduled air carriers as they neared their 60th birthday." The report concluded that the age for airline pilots could safely be raised.
Dr. Susan Baker, of Johns Hopkins University, wrote: " ... there is no scientific evidence to support the Age 60 Rule. From 1991 until 1993, I served on a panel of experts appointed by the FAA to oversee the FAA-sponsored research by Hilton Systems. This research, at a cost of well over a million dollars, found no basis for the Age 60 Rule and recommended that the age limit be increased ... I would rather fly with my life in the hands of a 64-year-old captain than with a 29-year-old pilot flying as captain."
Solutions to the Problem, Objections to the Solutions, and My Refutation
Because of the issues that the "Age 60 Rule" poses to many aviation pilots, especially to the commercial ones, following are two major solutions being proposed to loosen the forced retirement policy upon reaching the age of 60.
Raise the retirement age. The age of 60 was found by many in the aviation profession to be disputable as a retirement age. This is because of the fact that medical researches and studies that were performed by the aviation authorities proved that the age of 60 is not relative to the safety that the pilots provide in the performance of their duties. According to Paul Emens, from his statements to Senators, the competence of pilots is not comparative to their age.
Provide efficient and effective FAA medical systems and standards to thoroughly test and monitor the pilots as to who are incompetent or who can be a risk to the aviation industry, without focusing on age as the major reason but rather focus on the competency and health of the pilots.
The above solutions are seen to be reasonable than the Age 60 Rule because of the fact that the risks in flying cannot be simply determined by age alone. Raising the retirement age can be acceptable because it is a fact that age can deteriorate the health condition of an individual. However, the policy that the Age 60 Rule imposes is not an acceptable one because the age of 60 is not a very old age for pilots to be considered incompetent to fly an aircraft. Medical researches of aviation authorities have even proven this fact thus providing the aviation pilots with more edge to contest the Age 60 Rule. The other solution which is the provision of effective medical systems to determine the capacity of pilots who reach 60 if they are still capable of administering flights would also be effective especially in terms of preventing the idea of generalizing the capability of pilots based on their age. It will be similarly effective in maintaining the stability of the aviation industry and prevent the loss of excellent pilots due to forced retirement. In that pilots who reach the age of 60 but are still very much capable and competent to fly an aircraft can continue their profession as long as they pass the medical systems provided by the aviation authorities.
Objections to these solutions may say that the "Age 60 Rule" is more acceptable because it is a way of preventing air accidents. Some may also say that the safety of the passengers should be the first and foremost priority, thus the "Age 60 Rule" should be acceptable. Moreover, health issues relative to age, though it is not proven even by aviation medical authorities, may be…