Older Pilots Lose Fight to Get Their Seniority Back

     WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge dismissed a complaint filed by a group of commercial pilots forced out of the skies when they turned 60 who lost their seniority when Congress extended the mandatory retirement age to 65.

     For nearly 50 years, the Federal Aviation Administration enforced an “age-sixty rule” that made it illegal for pilots to fly commercial aircraft after their 60th birthdays. In 2007, Congress passed the Fair Treatment for Experienced Pilots Act (FTEPA), which increased that age limit to 65. Under the new law, however, pilots who had already turned 60 before the statute was enacted would have to return to work at junior-pilot status.
     “Plaintiffs filed this action … alleging that FTEPA has barred them from returning to work with the seniority benefits to which they are entitled,” U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy Jr. wrote. “They further allege that this loss of seniority will preclude them from piloting the types of large commercial aircraft that they were qualified to fly prior to sixty.”
     They claimed that FTEPA’s nonretroactivity and protection-for-compliance provisions violated equal protection and due process.
     Judge Kennedy granted the motion to dismiss filed by the United States, Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood and FAA Administrator J. Randolph Babbitt, agreeing that the pilots had failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
     “Further, plaintiffs have failed to identify any less burdensome means by which Congress could have raised the age limit while also protecting the settled expectations of pilots who have operated under the age-sixty rule for decades,” Kennedy wrote. “Likewise, there is simply no indication in the ‘legislative record’ … of an intent punish.”

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