The FAA reauthorization bill now before Congress no longer includes a last-minute provision slipped into the legislation by Rep. Bill Shuster that would have required pilots for fractional giant NetJets to retire at age 65, the same age as airline pilots. Instead, NetJets pilots will be forced to retire at age 70, a compromise plan that has the backing of their union, the NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots.
While the mandatory age 70 retirement age for certain Part 135 and Part 91K pilots doesn’t specify NetJets, the mandate would apply only to companies that perform at least 150,000 turbojet operations in a calendar year, in effect making the new rule apply only to NetJets. The earlier proposal by Shuster included language that stipulated companies with 100,000 operations would be affected.
Some NetJets pilots, as well as AARP, balked at mandatory retirement ages, saying they were arbitrary and unnecessary. NetJets, meanwhile, cheered the legislation as an important change to improve flight safety.
“The lack of a pilot age restriction for large private air carriers is a growing concern in aviation safety,” the company said in a statement. “NetJets supports an amendment to the FAA Reauthorization bill that would impose an age restriction for pilots of large, private air carriers that is similar to the restriction that currently exists for commercial airlines. Such a restriction is an important safety measure for private carriers whose flight operations are comparable in size and complexity to their commercial counterparts. We hold passenger safety as our highest priority and we look forward to working with Congress on this common-sense regulation that will make air travel safer for everyone.”
NetJets says the bill has a one-year phase-in period and will affect about 70 pilots who are older than age 70.