Mar 21 2023

Graham, Senators Reintroduce Bill To Address Pilot Shortage

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), Mark Kelly (D- Arizona) and Deb Fischer (R-Nebraska) today reintroduced the Let Experienced Pilots Fly Act to address airline flight cancellations caused by a shortage of pilots. 

The legislation:

  • Raises the mandatory commercial pilot retirement age from 65 to 67.
  • Requires that pilots over the age of 65 maintain a first-class medical certification, which must be renewed every six months.
  • Requires air carriers to continue using pilot training and qualification programs approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
  • Does not change or alter any other qualification – beyond age – to become a commercial airline pilot.

With baby boomers making up half of the airline pilot population, roughly 5,000 fully qualified pilots will be forced to retired within the next two years and the problem will grow even more acute in the years after. The wave of forced pilot retirements continues even as hundreds of flights are being cancelled due to a shortage of available pilots and crews.

In 2007, the retirement age for pilots in the United States was raised from 60 to 65 after medical reports concluded age had an ‘insignificant impact’ on performance in the cockpit and there were safety precautions already in place to prevent accidents in case of incapacitation. Nothing in this legislation changes current safety and proficiency procedures for commercial pilots. Pilots will continue to be held to an incredibly high standard to ensure passenger safety.

“There is a severe and growing pilot shortage in the United States. Every air traveler sees and feels the impact when they go to the airport,” said Senator Graham. “One of the biggest causes of air delays is a lack of available crews. Lately, if your plane actually leaves on time, you feel like you won the lottery. My legislation extends the mandatory retirement age two years and will make an immediate and appreciable difference keeping highly-trained pilots on the job. The traveling public deserves better than what they are currently getting. Our bill moves the needle in the right direction to address the critical pilot shortage.”

“Our country continues to face a severe pilot shortage that has led to recent spikes in flight cancellations and delays, disrupting travel plans for millions of Americans,” said Senator Manchin. “In West Virginia, our airports are our gateways to the rest of the world, and unfortunately, we have lost a number of flights over the last year due to these shortages. I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to raise the mandatory retirement age for commercial pilots from 65 to 67, while maintaining the current requirements for first-class medical and training certifications. This commonsense reform will help ensure air service is safe, reliable and efficient while addressing the pilot shortage.

“People in Wyoming rely on small rural airports, and I constantly hear from folks back home about cancellations and delays plaguing rural air service. This is in part caused by a lack of pilots,” said Senator Lummis. “Raising the mandatory retirement age to allow pilots to fly for two additional years would help mitigate some of these shortages to restore rural air service, while also ensuring we still have qualified and capable pilots manning our aircraft.”

“America is facing a pilot shortage,” said Senator Blackburn. “Current rules block experienced pilots from the workforce based solely on their age. This legislation will raise the maximum age to 67, helping to reduce the worker shortage, lower the number of canceled flights, and increase travel into states like Tennessee.”

“The national shortage of pilots has caused too many delays and disruptions for travelers across the country. Our bipartisan legislation would allow experienced and highly skilled pilots to continue their careers past age 65, if they choose, which would help address staffing and travel challenges as we continue to strengthen the pilot pipeline,” said Senator Kelly.

The full text of the legislation can be found here.