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At What Age Do Pilots Need To Retire?

Whether you’re a seasoned pilot or just starting out in the industry, you’re likely wondering if there’s an age ceiling in this exciting profession, and if you can enjoy early retirement or work well into your sunset years. While several factors, from flying experience to physical and mental health to performance at the helm play a role in determining when a pilot should retire, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has established clear rules around this topic. And of course, with the pilot shortage in full swing, the topic is on the mind of a lot of people both inside and outside the field. So let’s take a deeper dive into the specific age requirements for pilots in the United States.

Is There A Mandatory Retirement Age For Pilots?

The good news is that even if you’re older than 65, you can still fly (unpaid) provided you’ve completed the proper Flight Reviews, medical checks and other requirements. Private pilots, for example, can fly at any age if their license is current. Additionally, commercial pilots can fly at any age, as long as they aren’t employed by airlines who operate under 14 CFR Part 121.

However, any pilot that flies passengers or cargo for an organization under Part 121 (major and regional airlines and cargo operators in the U.S.) is required to retire at the FAA-mandated age of 65. Pay particular attention to this if you hold an airline transport pilot (ATP) license. This regulation was put in place over six decades ago, and is based on the fact that your cognitive and physical abilities decline as you age, which may render you ineffective in the cockpit.

It’s important to note that while the FAA sets the minimum requirements for commercial pilot certification, some individual employers may have stricter policies, including a mandatory retirement age that is lower than 65 years. CPL holders over the age of 65 may also continue to work in other capacities, like as a mechanic, engineer or even pilot, depending on the regulations the company operates under.

For instance, operators who are mandated by Part 135 and have completed at least 75,000 flights a year, have pushed the mandatory retirement age up to 70 years old thanks to the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Package. Companies under this regulation may include air taxis, private passenger charters or business aviation support.

How Is The Pilot Shortage Affecting The Situation?

Many airlines, both major and regional, are facing a serious shortage of qualified pilots to conduct their routes. A number of combined factors have created the perfect storm of sorts that’s affecting the talent pool – from the high costs of pilot training hindering people from entering the field, to the devastating and lingering effects of the 2020 pandemic that caused massive layoffs, to expensive mandatory plane upgrades that are diverting money from pilot salaries – and causing issues throughout the industry

As such, there have been proposals for the FAA to increase the pilot retirement age from 65 to 67. Although bills have been introduced in Congress over the past several years, including the Let Experienced Pilots Fly Act of July 2022 allowing a pilot to work as a captain or co-pilot for an additional two years, nothing has been passed.

Will The FAA Raise The Retirement Age To Fight The Shortage?

The short answer is no, the FAA will not raise the retirement age for airline pilots in the near future. As boomers continue to retire, we may see a shift in attitude toward the end of the decade, if the airline industry’s current efforts don’t pay off. Recently, companies have tried increasing salaries to attract more talent, founding their own training centers to get new pilots into the employment pipeline quicker, and partnering with local flight schools around the country in order to provide leading training programs and usher in a new era of aviators.

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Inflight is the leading pilot training organization in the Minneapolis/St. Paul region. Our goal is to develop your skills in the cockpit by providing you with a high-quality training program and a team of expert certified flight instructors, ready to help you master the skies. Whether you aspire to achieve a private pilot certificate, an airline transport pilot certificate or anything in between, we have the resources to support you in reaching your goals. 

Reach out to us today to learn more about our comprehensive training offerings and knowledgeable flight instructors. For additional information on Inflight training programs, contact us or call (952) 698-3000.