Flights canceled for 67-year-old pilots

A year after it was first proposed, the Let Experienced Pilots Fly Act died quietly in committee. As we reported here, it “passed its first hurdle when the bill … cleared the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in June. The LEPF Act was filed as an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act, which sailed through and is likely to pass the full House of Representatives with little debate.”

The House passed the FAA reauthorization and then the Senate passed a related bill but, as we predicted, the upper chamber took a hard look at the provision that would have raised the airline pilot retirement from 65 to 67. On February 8, the Democrat-majority Senate ultimately stripped the LEPF Act language out of the larger bill on a party-line vote before promoting it from the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee to an upcoming floor vote, yet to be scheduled. After three deadline extensions, Congress now has until May 10 to reconcile the House of Representatives version with the Senate version and send it to President Joe Biden to sign into law.

That means there is still a glimmer of hope for aging pilots looking to stay aloft for two more years. The reconciled bill could bring this provision back to life, although that’s far from certain.

The split

On Capitol Hill, this is very much a partisan issue but, on the flight deck, it’s more of a generational one. It may have been the Republican-controlled House that passed the provision and the Democratic-controlled Senate that purged it, but it’s mostly older pilots who are in favor of it and younger pilots who oppose it.

As we noted in July 2023, the Association of Mature American Citizens advocated for the LEPF Act with the Air Line Pilots Association union strongly against it. We listed the points that each side made but confessed a slightly skeptical view of ALPA’s position.

In Washington, though, nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to. Until then, it’s a waiting game.

The rest of the bill

In all this discussion of the mandatory pilot retirement age, it’s important to look at the broader bill, which has met with far less controversy. The legislation would also:

  • Fund the FAA through 2028,
  • Take several measures to improve aviation safety,
  • Increase the number of air traffic controllers,
  • Provide flight attendants with self-defense courses,
  • Offer pilots mental health services,
  • Improve airline consumer protection,
  • Enhance aircraft accessibility,
  • Ensure air travel access in rural areas and
  • Upgrade airport technology,

What might have older pilots fuming, though, is that the legislation identifies the shortage of pilots as a problem to be solved … some other way. The Senate bill:

  • Sets aside money for recruiting and training new pilots,
  • Boosts student loan limits for pilot training and
  • Provides grants for recently discharged military veterans to become commercial pilots – especially if they’re not already aviators.

And yet retaining experienced, healthy pilots for another two years is somehow beyond the pale.

At the close

While prospects are dim for the measure passing now – or indeed before 2028 – it’s not completely dead, and it’s sure to come up again four years from now when this FAA reauthorization for 2023 to age 67 sunsets.

What you do with this information depends, among other things, on where you are in your aviation career. For now, we encourage you to consider connecting with one of our experienced financial professionals to optimize your plans regardless of the outcome. Learn More about our award-winning team HERE!

Recent Posts