When should pilots hang up their goggles?

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TheGreenAnger
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When should pilots hang up their goggles?

#1 Post by TheGreenAnger » Thu Aug 04, 2022 2:47 pm

This article covers commercial pilots and ATPL's and sundry Sky Gods too, but I guess the underlying principle, reference age and medical status, that is relevant to the great, is also relevant to lesser mortals like PPL's and so on too!
Would Allowing Airline Pilots To Fly Until 67 Be a Mistake?
The ‘Let Experienced Pilots Fly Act’ may create more problems than it solves, says a veteran airline pilot.

No doubt, the flying public is frustrated with enduring the extraordinary volume of cancellations and flight delays. Mainstream media has certainly shone a spotlight on the situation, giving additional anxiety to those who are still formulating their travel plans.

Fingers have pointed at the “pilot shortage,” as a major factor. In that regard, on July 25, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) introduced the “Let Experienced Pilots Fly Act,” which would increase the mandatory airline pilot retirement age from 65 to 67.

The legislation seems to be a knee-jerk reaction in response to justifiably frustrated constituents. Although the premise of the act is intended as a solution, it may actually create more problems. Why? Setting aside the debate of age 67 being an arbitrary number, older airline pilots experience more medical issues that don’t necessarily challenge their daily lives but may keep them out of the cockpit. Cardiac irregularities, blood pressure, or orthopedic surgeries are examples.

According to Capt. Dennis Tajer, spokesperson for American Airlines’ (NASDAQ: AAL) Allied Pilots Association, approximately 4,000 pilots are awaiting FAA reviews for disqualifying medical conditions that are allowed but only through a special approval process. Some pilots have been waiting a year for such approvals.

In an interview on CNBC, the CEO of United Airlines (NASDAQ: UAL), Scott Kirby, stated that 36 percent of his 64-year-old pilots were remaining out of the cockpit—temporarily or permanently—because of medical issues. Stretch the mandatory retirement age to 67 and the percentage will go higher.

In addition, with most retiree medical benefits no longer available or cost prohibitive, older pilots tend to utilize their better-quality employment benefits for elective procedures before leaving the airline, i.e., knee replacements, shoulder surgery, etc. And based on minimal incentives to do otherwise, leaving a large amount of unused sick time on the table just prior to retirement is not usually a pilot’s choice.

Another challenge to raising the mandatory retirement age is the fact that only about nine other countries allow Part 121 air carrier pilots to fly beyond 65. Although ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) is not a regulatory agency with enforcement capabilities, age 65 is a limit among the many countries that abide by its rules—the U.S. being one of them. This rule does not allow over-65 pilots to fly internationally, which opens a new can of worms.

How? With most U.S. airlines scheduling a blend of international and domestic flights for pilots, changing the trip pairings would be problematic. Carriers had found it more efficient, and thus more economical, to qualify crews for both international and domestic flying, mixing the two categories within a given trip.

Do the airlines now construct separate, domestic-only trip pairings for the over 65 pilots? And with a seniority-based system initiated in the Lindbergh era for all things airline pilot, are the over 65-ers given special bidding privileges because of the international restriction?

More times than not, a 65-year-old pilot has the seniority to fly widebody airplanes, which are almost exclusively flown on international routes. A domestic-only restriction could potentially exclude that pilot from piloting a widebody airplane. An age 65-plus pilot would be confronted with the only choice of bidding back to narrow-body equipment so as to remain domestic.

Or from another angle, a senior pilot considers that extending his retirement from age 65 to 67 might afford him the opportunity to fly a widebody airplane, but it won’t be possible because of the domestic restriction.

Big deal? Aside from a bruised ego, perhaps a bid backwards would trigger a pay cut, notwithstanding a potentially less desirable schedule among other intrinsic problems that a more senior pilot would not normally incur. So, the incentive would be to retire early—exactly the opposite of the intended effect of retaining experienced pilots.

Some of you might be thinking, “Well, why not pay them the same as if the domestic restriction didn’t exist for the widebody airplane they were once flying?” Good luck convincing the airline of that, especially since the empty seats left by the 65-ers will also trigger training costs for the next senior pilots in line.

Speaking of training costs, if the age 65-plus pilots are forced to transition backwards, a domino effect occurs whereupon they must be trained on the narrow-body airplane while the next senior pilots are trained to fill the vacated seats on the widebody airplane.

In addition, junior pilots on narrow-body equipment may be displaced off the bottom of the list to other airplanes that will also require transition training. The airline academies are already dealing with a bottleneck because their current training infrastructure hasn’t caught up with the demand.

Tajer blamed the airlines for failing to anticipate what should have been a predictable, post-pandemic schedule demand. He indicated that it was a wise move for the U.S. government to grant $54 billion worth of bailout money. The airlines managed the bailout well, keeping Chapter 11 behind a closed door, but the recovery strategy has been woefully deficient.

For the moment, the pilot experience shortage has not quite reached the major airlines because of their source of qualified applicants from the regional carriers. That could change as the hiring faucet from the regionals begins to drip. Tajer said he believes that the long-term solution lies with providing a bridge between a new pilot’s training completion and the experience required to qualify as a pilot for the airlines.

Considering the challenges involved, raising the mandatory retirement to age 67 may not even qualify as a Band-Aid, especially if it infects the wound further.
https://www.flyingmag.com/would-allowin ... -a-mistake
They told me that I knew **** nothing, and I told them that I knew **** all - with apologies to David Niven.

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Re: When should pilots hang up their goggles?

#2 Post by PHXPhlyer » Thu Aug 04, 2022 5:13 pm

In addition, with most retiree medical benefits no longer available or cost prohibitive, older pilots tend to utilize their better-quality employment benefits for elective procedures before leaving the airline, i.e., knee replacements, shoulder surgery, etc. And based on minimal incentives to do otherwise, leaving a large amount of unused sick time on the table just prior to retirement is not usually a pilot’s choice.

I can comment directly to this.
When approaching the "Magic Birthday" which was going to get me fired I started using my sick days far more than I ever had just for financial gain.
The company's policy was to pay out unused sick pay at 25%. It was a no-brainer. I even did not fly my final pairing as it was a crappy trip, the 'Retirement Water Salute" cost was charged to the pilot at a cost of $450.00, and there was a weekend jazz festival that I didn't want to miss.
D#1 was disappointed that I didn't do a final flight where family were allowed to accompany. The circumstances simply weren't worth it.

PP

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Re: When should pilots hang up their goggles?

#3 Post by TheGreenAnger » Thu Aug 04, 2022 5:30 pm

PHXPhlyer wrote:
Thu Aug 04, 2022 5:13 pm

... crappy trip, the 'Retirement Water Salute" cost was charged to the pilot at a cost of $450.00...
PP
Jeez man... when sentiment is trumped by greed...

:-o
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Re: When should pilots hang up their goggles?

#4 Post by PHXPhlyer » Thu Aug 04, 2022 5:43 pm

TheGreenAnger wrote:
Thu Aug 04, 2022 5:30 pm
PHXPhlyer wrote:
Thu Aug 04, 2022 5:13 pm

... crappy trip, the 'Retirement Water Salute" cost was charged to the pilot at a cost of $450.00...
PP
Jeez man... when sentiment is trumped by greed...

:-o
Three hours of flight pay just to have water squirted on the plane. [-X
It would have probably rained anyway. :-o :((
The jazz festival was more than worth it. Stephanie Trick was my whole reason for going! :YMHUG:
Many other great performers, including her husband, over two and a half days.

PP

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Re: When should pilots hang up their goggles?

#5 Post by ExSp33db1rd » Fri Aug 05, 2022 3:34 am

I certainly wasn't ready to retire at 60, having changed airlines to beat the 55, then flew ( and instructed) recreationally until 85, but with less students decided that I was not doing enough to feel on top of it, so gave up my intructors rating. Not flown now for nearly 2 years for various reasons, and now 8 months past my BFR and even tho' just passed my medical, it being allied to my successful driving licence medical, but with 88 coming up I feel that the time has come to say .... be sensible ( tho' I'm still riding my motor bike ! )

I can always buy a Trial Lesson if the urge gets to strong !

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Re: When should pilots hang up their goggles?

#6 Post by prospector » Fri Aug 05, 2022 4:28 am

Seems weird that Airline Pilots and Air traffic controllers have a mandatory retiring age, and yet the most senior politicians in America are well past that age, including the president who would not have a snowball's chance in hell of passing a medical as required by aeronautical folk during their whole career.

"
"I can always buy a Trial Lesson if the urge gets to strong !" I have had that thought in the back of my mind, but probably that flight will be in a jar, out to sea. one way only, to be organized in advance. hopefully.

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Re: When should pilots hang up their goggles?

#7 Post by ExSp33db1rd » Fri Aug 05, 2022 5:27 am

Yes, flown a few "jars" out to sea in recent years.

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Re: When should pilots hang up their goggles?

#8 Post by reddo » Sun Aug 07, 2022 12:17 pm

Onya ExSp33db1rd, right attitude.
While I really love my job I know it's harder on me than 15 years ago when I joined at 40. I am intending on bugging out at 60 because I want to enjoy my retirement. :)

The article highlights some very interesting points. It just doesn't look like a positive cost benefit thing to the airline. Not to mention the additional stress on the pilot with fleet changes etc. The elephant in the room is the increased rate of cognitive decline which begins around 65. (See motor insurance actuaries for the evidence, also, my HRT pamphlet states that the cognitive decline cannot be reversed once over 65! Eeek).
Does the rate affect every one at the same time? No, of course not. :)

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Re: When should pilots hang up their goggles?

#9 Post by Rossian » Sun Aug 07, 2022 1:06 pm

Not a pilot but I've always had an interest in pilots' cognitive ability with regard to my own pink body. The significant point is who decides? Gummint? Airline? The person in question?
A long time ago when we converted from the Shackleton to the Nimrod there were about 4 brave souls (and I DO think they were brave!) who had the courage to step forward and say "I can no longer do this as I would want to and I don't want the lives of an entire crew on my conscience" and asked to be taken off that duty. They were all highly respected members of the MPA community. The first was a flight commander on a squadron, the second was the boss of the standards unit so not minor players in the community. I can't remember which of them said in the back bar one morning "I was with the a/c up until I let off the brakes" probably not original but very descriptive of their self assessment. I raised my hat to them then and I would do it again.

The Ancient Mariner

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Re: When should pilots hang up their goggles?

#10 Post by reddo » Sun Aug 07, 2022 6:14 pm

The current sim checks hide the worst aspect of decline - the inability to react to novel situations in a timely manner. The check is so prescriptive you just know what to expect and plan for.
The decline can be slowed down in healthy individuals. Stay engaged with the world, learn new stuff, eg languages, musical instruments, be positive and be social.

I too respect those gentlemen who were self aware enough to recognise that they were no longer as sharp as they needed to be.

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Re: When should pilots hang up their goggles?

#11 Post by Boac » Sun Aug 07, 2022 6:43 pm

reddo wrote:I too respect those gentlemen who were self aware enough to recognise that they were no longer as sharp as they needed to be.
Absolutely. I'm sure most will accept the Lighting was a challenging aircraft and had sadly taken its toll on pilots. While I was on a squadron we had two pilots 'quit' - both highly accomplished operators. The first was my number 1 in a pairs detail involving practice combat over a 'milky' North Sea, and we were lined up for departure when he said he was taxying back, and never flew again. He went on to a successful career in the AD radar world. Huge respect.

The second was a 'high flying' Flight Commander of mine who 'lost it' at altitude and was talked down by 'the team' and eventually flew Chipmunks somewhere. He was a complete workaholic, destined for greatness (we did disagree and he once 'bollocked' me for not working 24/7 as his deputy :)) ) Again, huge respect (although his comments 'dented ' my career.)

As a 'tale', I was sent as a squadron 'rep' on a North Luffenham 'exercise' to look at why pilots were 'dropping out' - other 'course' members were mainly from the V-force and Maritime, but I was amused by one of the questions in the initial survey we had to complete, asking what (non-aviation things) one was 'frightened' by - one of the questions was 'Lightning'.............. I failed to get the staff there to see the funny side..............

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Re: When should pilots hang up their goggles?

#12 Post by reddo » Sun Aug 07, 2022 8:56 pm

Groundies, especially HR et al, rarely have a sense of humour.

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