Pilots Petition the Court to Keep Flying Beyond 60

Three airline pilots have asked an appeals court to let them keep flying past the mandatory retirement age of 60, a limit federal regulators plan to raise to 65.

The pilots said in a petition to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that they don't want to wait for the Federal Aviation Administration to complete the process of raising the limit.

Plaintiffs Joseph G. LoVecchio, of Lancaster; Lewis J. Tetlow, of Bedford, N.H., who turned 60 on Monday; and Richard C. Morgan of Charlottesville, Va., argue it is unreasonable to deny their petition for a waiver to a rule that is likely to be wiped out anyway. Tetlow turned 60 on Monday.

"I'll probably have to look for a flying job, but at age 60, it's always hard to do that," Morgan said Monday. "It's very daunting and the market is actually flooded with other airline pilots."

The pilots, who fly for Tempe, Ariz.-based US Airways, asked the court in their motion, filed Thursday, to order the FAA to act on their waiver requests before April 30. The pilots said FAA officials told them they would not act on waivers "piecemeal" while the rule revision is being considered.

In a separate lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court, they said the rule violates their constitutional equal-rights protections.

The FAA has said it will not act on waivers while the rule revision is being considered, agency spokeswoman Alison Duquette said.

Duquette declined to comment on the lawsuits. The only time the FAA has granted a waiver to the age rule was in the 1990s when it was trying to bring small commuter carriers up to the same safety standards as major carriers.

The pilots also noted that since the international standard changed last fall, foreign pilots up to age 65 have been able to fly in the United States.

If forced to retire, LoVecchio said, he would consider going to Europe for a pilot's job.

With airlines slashing pensions and in need of qualified pilots, pressure has mounted to rewrite the age limit, which has been in place since 1960. Critics say that flight safety must come first, and that the impact of raising the age limit is not fully understood.

Pilots' unions have split on what the limit should be.

On Jan. 30, the FAA's administrator, Marion Blakey, proposed allowing pilots to fly until 65, as long as at least one member of the flight crew is under 60. However, Blakey at the time said it would take up to two years for the rule to take effect.

The FAA's proposal mirrors a rule adopted two months earlier by the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations group. Since the international standard changed, foreign pilots have been able to fly in the United States up to age 65, as long as they're accompanied by a co-pilot under 60 and undergo medical testing every six months.


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