Aviation Safety:

Information on the Safety Effects of Modifying the Age Standard for Commercial Pilots

GAO-10-107R: Published: Oct 30, 2009. Publicly Released: Oct 30, 2009.

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Gerald Dillingham, Ph.D.
(202) 512-4803


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

The Fair Treatment for Experienced Pilots Act (the act) extended the federal age standard for pilots of large commercial aircraft from 60 to 65 years of age. The act also requires us to report--no later than 24 months after its enactment--on the effect, if any, of this change on aviation safety. This report responds to that requirement.

Our review of FAA's accident and incident data and NTSB's accident data from December 2007, when the act was enacted, through September 2009 showed that no accidents or incidents6 resulted from the health conditions of pilots 60 years or older. However, for a more definitive assessment, a longer period of time would be required to collect data for similar groups--both pilots 60 years or older and younger pilots-- to determine if the act's change in the age standard for commercial pilots has any effect on aviation safety. Such a study is not yet feasible because the act is too recent for flight records to be available for a sufficient number of pilots 60 years or older.