Age 65

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Federal Court: Mandatory Retirement Age for Pilots Is Not Age Discrimination
May 2, 2014
Since 1959, the FAA has set an age limit for pilots in FAR Part 121 operations. First known as the “Age 60 rule,” Congress raised the limit to 65 in the Fair Treatment for Experienced Pilots Act in 2007. These limits, however, have only applied to Part 121 operations, leaving open the important question of whether a Part 91 operator or Part 135 carrier could legally require pilots to retire or cease their piloting duties upon reaching a certain age. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit recently issued a decision that allowed a Part 91 operator to continue to apply the “Age 65 rule” to its operations. Read what attorney and NBAA Regulatory Issues Advisory Group member Gregory Ripple says about the decision.
FAA Finalizes Age Limit for Part 121 Pilots
July 20, 2009
On July 15, 2009, the FAA issued a Final Rule that raises the mandatory retirement age of airline pilots from 60 to 65. This Final Rule reflects the requirements of the Fair Treatment for Experienced Pilots Act (Public Law 110-135), signed by the President on December 13, 2007, and went into effect on July 15, 2009. Since December 13, 2007, airlines have allowed pilots to continue flying until their 65th birthday. Review the final rule.
Age 65 Retirement Rule Discussed in NBAA Resource
February 14, 2008
With the “Age 60 Rule” the subject of so much national debate, Part 91 and 135 operators may wonder if the law allows them to establish a mandatory retirement age for pilots.  The simple answer is still “no.”  The Fair Treatment for Experienced Pilots Act, signed into law in December 2007, is specific and only covers pilots serving in Part 121 operations.  Nevertheless, many Part 91 and 135 carriers attempt to justify their mandatory retirement policies by reference to FAR 121.383(c) even though it too only applied to Part 121 carriers.  Those Part 91 and 135 carriers should now consider amending their policies to reflect the changes in the new law. An article prepared for NBAA Members discusses this issue in the context of business aircraft operations.

Domestic Operations

Currently, for domestic business aircraft operators, the Age 65 rule does not affect Part 135 charter operators or Part 91 operators from a regulatory standpoint. The restriction on pilots operating aircraft after they reach the age of 65 only applies to Part 121 air carriers. The restriction does not apply to non-air carrier operators.

The issue has become more complex, however, due to the decision by several business flight departments to require early retirement for their pilots as a matter of company policy. This action has prompted a number of legal actions involving the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Under this rule, employees are protected from employment discrimination based upon age. The final outcome of this litigation is still to be determined. For more information, see the following article:

International Operations

For international operators, attention has been given to the age 65 topic in the form of an ICAO rule change. The new provisions became applicable in November 2014, and read as follows (ICAO Annex 1, Chapter 2, paragraph 2.1.10):

  • 2.1.10 A Contracting State, having issued pilot licenses, shall not permit the holders thereof to act as pilot of an aircraft engaged in international commercial air transport operations if the license holders have attained their 60th birthday or, in the case of operations with more than one pilot, their 65th birthday.

This rule change has little direct impact upon private (Part 91) operations – crew members operating under Part 91, who are over the age of 65, may act as PIC of an aircraft on international flights.

It does, however, affect commercial operators, *including Part 135 charter operators*. Basically, the new rule states that, in commercial operations (for “remuneration or for hire”) where more than one pilot is required, both pilots must be less than 65 years of age, with a medical issued within the preceding six months.

It should be noted that there are countries that do not adhere to the ICAO rules. Further, not all countries differentiate between commercial and private operations in the same way that the U.S. or ICAO does. Therefore, all flightcrews operating internationally should always check the requirements for their destination country prior to their flight.

The following information was taken from ICAO’s web site.


ICAO defines "scheduled air service" as "an air service open to use by the general public and operated according to a published timetable or with such a regular frequency that it constitutes an easily recognizable systematic series of flights" (source: "Manual on the Regulation of International Air Transport — Doc 9626").

"Air transport operation for remuneration or hire" is equivalent to "commercial air transport operation" that is defined by ICAO as "an aircraft operation involving the transport of passengers, cargo or mail for remuneration or hire" (source: Annex 6 — Part I, International Commercial Air Transport — Aeroplanes).

The expression "remuneration or hire" means any kind of remuneration, whether monetary or other, which the operator receives from someone else for the act of transportation (source: "Policy and Guidance Material on the Economic Regulation of International Air Transport — Doc 9587", Part 1-7).

Application of Article 33 of the Chicago Convention

Article 33 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (often quoted as the "Chicago Convention") limits the international recognition of flight crew licences to those who are in full compliance with the Standards of Annex 1 (note that paragraph is a Standard). As a result, up until November 23, 2006, even if an individual State authorized one crewmember to fly in commercial air transport operations when over the age of 65, that authorization could only be given for flights within that State's national airspace. This is because no State can force another State to accept its own deviation from an ICAO Standard. Now, with this rule change, the age limit is raised to 65 in the circumstances presented above. No ICAO member-State can refuse to allow a foreign commercial operator, in compliance with the SARP, from operating within their country.

Article 33 does not apply to the co-pilot as paragraph is a Recommendation, not a Standard.

Articles 39 and 40 of the Convention are also relevant to the age limit of pilots-in-command engaged in commercial air transport operations as they authorize international flights by flight crew who are not meeting all international licensing Standards provided that an authorization is given by each State which airspace is used.

In practice, this means that if a pilot in command is under the age specified in paragraph he cannot be prevented by reason of age from operating into any ICAO Contracting State. Further, once he has reached the specified age, he may still operate as PIC, subject to certain conditions:

  • his/her national Licensing Authority permits it; and,
  • operations are undertaken only in national airspace; unless,
  • another State has given specific authorization that such flights are permitted in its airspace.

When over 60, a six-monthly medical examination will be necessary (ICAO specifies an annual medical for those under 60 years who are engaged in two-pilot operations). For single-pilot commercial air transport operations, the upper age limit remains at 60 years.

Most of the States that have authorized their pilots to fly as pilot-in-command in commercial air transport operations after they reach the age specified in also authorize pilots holding a license issued or validated by another States to fly in their own airspace under the same condition.

However, ICAO does not collect information on States authorizing pilots to fly in their airspace after reaching the age of 60 and cannot provide information on the subject. Pilots seeking such information must contact individual Civil Aviation Authorities.