Mandating pilots retire at 60 is unfair, not based on safety

Following Sen. James Inhofe’s (R-Okla.) op-ed piece on amending the retirement age for airline pilots (“U.S. should drop requirement of pilots to retire at 60, but FAA change flawed,” May 10), an individual wrote a rebuttal letter that unfortunately contained inaccuracies. As the chairman of Airline Pilots Against Age Discrimination (APAAD) and a member of the FAA’s Age 60 Aviation Rulemaking Committee, I’d like to correct the record.

 … The world (not simply Europe) has changed to 65 and has been flying over age 60 for roughly a decade.  … The United States is on a very short list of countries not at age 65 or older, including the likes of North Korea, Uzbekistan and China.

The provision requiring one pilot to be under 60 if the other is over 60 does not “prove” there is a safety issue. Nothing could be further from the truth. The verbiage contained in the International Civil Aviation Organization age change report specifically stated that the provision had nothing to do with medical necessity but was an adjustment to enhance unity of purpose regarding the age change — a political provision. The FAA’s federal air surgeon, Dr. Fred Tilton, stated that there was no “medical necessity” for the provision; it could safely be discarded.

Proof that an age change is not a safety issue is shown in the absence of negative comments from the airlines and their pilot unions, who have no problem sharing American passengers with their foreign code-sharing partners — using pilots over the age of 60! The FAA administrator said the experience level of older pilots makes the aviation system “safer.” The Airline Pilots Association, the nation’s largest pilot union, recently endorsed amending the Age 60 Rule. …

Since foreign pilots began flying in U.S. airspace on Thanksgiving Day 2006, some 1,200 U.S. pilots have lost their jobs solely due to age. Four thousand more will do the same while the FAA works its way through the Notice of Proposed Rule Making process. Most are veterans and most have lost their pensions.

It’s a moral outrage that Congress needs to immediately correct.

~From Paul Emens, North Bethesda, Md.


Internet time travel

When I saw Ben Goddard’s column “The Web Innovators” (May 24), it took me back to 1994. Working for him as an administrative assistant in Malibu, Calif., I had put together a proposal to research cyberspace as a new medium to send the “message” he so often writes about. The Web was truly in its infancy then, but I could see the implications on the future of politics — the ones Ben now writes about some 17 years later.

In a way, I wanted to say, “I told you so.” The opportunity was there; we never pursued it. Maybe it was too soon, but I can’t help wondering what might of been if we had. If the “message is the medium,” clearly he didn’t get the message. Perhaps neither did I — soon after that I had a job offer from an early Internet advocacy pioneer. I turned it down. Later, he made a fortune selling flowers over the Web.

Back to the future: consider the disparity between the Web’s global reach and national participation in politics — it’s only about half the eligible voters. Maybe the most important message isn’t the medium after all. Perhaps it’s: “Will politics, the quality of candidates and our leadership mature at the pace of the medium?”

We’ll check back in another 17 years. Kirk out.

~From Scott Kovarik, Willoughby, Ohio