The age 60 rule: age discrimination in commercial aviation.
Aviat Space Environ Med 2002 Mar; 73(3):194-202
BACKGROUND: The Federal Aviation Administration's Age 60 Rule, promulgated in 1959, prohibits airline pilots from working in Part 121 operations once they have reached the age of 60. The Age 60 Rule remains a most contentious and politically sensitive topic, with challenges to the Rule currently mounted in both legislative and legal arenas. METHODS: An extensive review of the medical literature was accomplished using MEDLINE. Pertinent Federal Regulations were examined. Legal proceedings and public domain documents were noted. Letters and personal communication were solicited where necessary information could not be ascertained by other means. RESULTS: The Age 60 Rule was not based on any scientific data showing that airline pilots aged 60 and older were any less safe than younger pilots, and there is evidence to indicate that the choice of age 60 was actually based on economic rather than safety considerations. Airline pilots consistently exceed general population norms for longevity, physical health, and mental abilities. Fear of an adverse pilot health event causing a crash in standard multi-crew operations is not justified. For decades, airline pilots under age 60 have been granted the means to demonstrate their fitness for flying by taking medical, cognitive, and performance evaluations that are denied to airline pilots when they reach age 60. Actual flight experience demonstrates that older pilots are as safe as younger pilots. International aviation experience indicates that abolishing the Age 60 Rule will not compromise aviation safety. CONCLUSION: There appears to be no medical, scientific, or safety justification for the Age 60 Rule. As such, perpetuation of the Age 60 Rule, where age alone is used as the single criterion of older pilot fitness, represents age discrimination in commercial aviation.
Pilots; Age-factors; Age-groups; Accidents; Accident-rates; Accident-statistics; Safety-measures; Safety-practices;
Author Keywords: Pilot age; Age discrimination; Accident rates
Robin Wilkening, M.D., M.P.H., 301 Pintail Lane, Annapolis, MD 21401
Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine
Johns Hopkins University