V.E. Age 60 Rule

Section 121.383(c) prohibits a certificate holder from using the

services of any person as a pilot, and prohibits any person from

serving as a pilot, on an airplane engaged in operations under part

121 if that person has reached his or her 60th birthday. Part 135 has

not had any such limitation. The FAA proposed to impose one age

limitation on all pilots employed in part 121 operations, including

those pilots currently employed in affected part 135 scheduled

operations. The FAA stated in Notice 95-5 that if it determines that

it is appropriate to propose a different age limit in another

rulemaking action, it will propose to apply the revised limitation to

all part 121 operations, including the pilots in commuter operations.

Comments: The age limitation question was the subject of over

2,000 written comments (including about 1,000 postcards from members

of an airline pilot organization) and oral presentations at public

meetings. The overwhelming majority of these comments concern the

general question of whether there is a need for an age limit in part

121, and do not address any particular aspects of applying an age rule

to commuter pilots.

Several commenters, however, state that if commuter pilots are

subjected to an age limit, the FAA should adopt a phased-in

implementation schedule to avoid abruptly ending the careers of pilots

who had not planned on retiring at age 60. Another commenter states

that it hires over-age-60 retired part 121 pilots.

FAA Response: As discussed above, the FAA has identified a

strong need to enhance the safety of commuter operations. Commuter

airlines are carrying an increasing number of passengers over an

increasing number of miles. While safety has improved over the past

two decades, commuter airlines operating under part 135 continue to

have a higher accident rate than domestic part 121 airlines. The FAA

can no longer justify most distinctions between parts 121 and 135

commuter operations.

The part 121 regulatory scheme provides a network of safety

features. Because most accidents are caused by human error, rules

designed to enhance the performance of pilots are among the most

valuable in reducing the number of accidents. Elsewhere in this

preamble the FAA discusses other provisions that serve this purpose,

such as the critical role of the aircraft dispatch system in double

checking the work of the pilot and providing updates on weather and

alternate airports. The training requirements for commuter pilots are

being upgraded, and eventually part 121 flight and duty time rules or

the newly proposed rules will apply to them. The Age 60 Rule provides

an additional measure of safety by reducing the risk that age-related

degradation will affect pilot performance. A pilot may have the best

training in the world, and be well-supported by an aircraft dispatch

system, but if the pilot suffers from a subtle age-related degradation

in performance, safety will be reduced. Also, the potential safety

benefits of training and dispatching may be reduced by human safety

lapses that could occur or do occur more frequently with age.

The "Age 60 Rule" was adopted by the FAA in 1959 (24 FR 9767,

December 5, 1959). At the time Notice 95-5 was issued, the FAA was

also considering whether, in the interest of safety, the Age 60 Rule

should be retained as is or revised to allow pilots to continue to fly

in part 121 operations past their 60th birthday. The FAA completed

its review of the Age 60 Rule. In a Disposition of Comments

(Disposition) published in the Federal Register, [cite], the FAA

announced that it will not propose to change the Age 60 Rule at this

time. The Disposition thoroughly discusses the various issues

regarding the need for an age limitation and what that age should be,

including the issues raised in the comments to Notice 95-5 that

concern the Age 60 Rule in general, and those comments will not be

further discussed here. This rulemaking deals only with the

application of part 121 rules to affected commuter operations.

In Notice 95-5 the FAA proposed a general compliance date (that

is, a date on which most provisions must be complied with) of 1 year

after publication. The Notice also proposed delayed compliance dates

for several of the requirements (other than the age limitation), to

provide time for the work necessary to comply with the proposed

requirements. In this final rule, the FAA has adopted a general

compliance date of 15 months after the date of publication of this

final rule in § 121.2(c), and also has adopted delayed compliance

dates for a number of requirements, giving the air carriers 2, 4, or

more years to comply with certain of the new requirements.

In response to the comments requesting delayed compliance dates,

and after further evaluation, the FAA has considered that there are

factors warranting delay in the compliance date for the Age 60 Rule,

as it applies to those affected commuters that now will be brought

under part 121. The lack of an age limitation in part 135 has created

reasonable expectations on the part of both the affected commuter

operators and pilots regarding the length of time that the pilots

would continue in service: Some of those operators have spent money

to hire and train pilots with the expectation that they would serve

past the age of 60; and the pilots have not had to plan on leaving

their positions at age 60. In fact, certain affected commuters appear

to have a practice of hiring retired part 121 pilots, and will no

longer be able to do so.

Further, this rule requires the affected commuters to make

extensive changes in equipment, personnel, and procedures before the

general compliance date. Also, final rules have been adopted that

impose new requirements for training, including standardized pilot

training and crew resource management training. The affected

commuters operators should not be required to stop using the services

of their over-age-60 pilots in scheduled operations (10 or more seats)

and train replacements until these new programs are in place, and the

training can be under the new programs.

Accordingly, the FAA has determined that the Age 60 Rule, as it

applies to certain pilots, should have an extended compliance date.

As it applies to pilots newly hired by commuter operators, the Age 60

Rule will apply on the general compliance date indicated in §

121.2(c). Until that date, there will be no age restrictions on the

pilots of commuter operations that are upgrading to part 121. After

that date, the affected commuters will no longer be able to hire

pilots who have reached their 60th birthday (except for pilots who as

of that date were employed as pilots for another affected commuter).

However, pilots who are employed by affected commuters on that date

will be able to continue to serve until December 20, 1999, after which

the Age 60 Rule will apply to every pilot under part 121.

The delay in applying the rule will provide some relief from the

difficulties discussed above. The 4-year compliance period for these

pilots will permit the affected commuters to recover services for

several more years from those pilots in which they recently have

invested in training. Delaying the application of the rule to new

hires until the general compliance date will give affected commuters

time to adopt new hiring practices, at a time when the operators will

have many other new requirements under this rule to comply with. The

4-year compliance period for pilots will give them time to plan for

retirement or for changing jobs. It will also give affected commuters

additional time to make careful selections of well-qualified pilots

and train them under the new training requirements. And, the

operators will not have to replace all of their over-age-60 pilots at

once, at a time when so many other new requirements must be complied