GILLETTE, Wyo. — U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-WY, and several other senators have reintroduced a bill to combat the pilot shortage that’s impacted Wyoming.
The Let Experienced Pilots Fly Act bill would raise the mandatory commercial pilot retirement age from 65 to 67 while keeping all training, safety and certifications in place to ensure pilot quality isn’t impacted, according to a news release from the office of Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-SC, who’s leading the coalition of senators. Pilots over age 65 must maintain a first-class medical certification, which must be renewed every six months, and air carriers must continue using pilot training and qualification programs approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA.
“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,” Lummis said in the release. “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.”
Under current laws, about 5,000 pilots must retire within the next year, the release said. About half of pilots are part of the Baby Boomer generation. In 2007, the retirement age for pilots in the United States was raised from 60 to 65.
According to the FAA, commercial airline pilots employed by major, regularly scheduled airlines, which typically fall under 14 CFR Part 121, must retire after they reach 65. However, they can switch to other roles, like a flight engineer, or fly for a company that’s not one of these carriers. A flight engineer ensures the plane flies safely by monitoring equipment and making minor repairs.
Senators Joe Manchin, D-WV; Chuck Grassley, R-IA; Marsha Blackburn, R-TN; Mark Kelly, D-AZ; and Deb Fischer, R-NE, are also supporting the bill.
The bill was introduced in July 2022 in both chambers of Congress, but it died in committee.