US Senate panel votes to boost FAA staffing, rejects hiking pilot retirement

By Thomson Reuters Feb 8, 2024 | 10:13 AM

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A U.S. Senate committee on Thursday voted on legislation to boost safety inspectors and air traffic controller staffing but declined to endorse raising the airline pilot retirement age to 67 from 65.

The U.S. House in July voted 351-69 on a bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration that would hike the mandatory retirement age to 67. The Senate Commerce Committee voted 14-13 to reject the retirement age hike after the FAA said earlier this week it would prefer additional research was conducted before Congress raised the age.

Congress last year failed to pass the FAA bill before the Sept. 30 deadline and has voted twice to temporarily extend the agency. The current extension expires in early March.

Current international rules would still prevent pilots older than 65 from flying in most countries outside the United States.

The committee’s aviation reform bill prohibits airlines from charging fees for families to sit together and requires airlines to accept vouchers and credits for at least five years. The bill would also hike maximum civil penalties for airline consumer violations from $25,000 per violation to $75,000.

The bill aims to address a shortage of 3,000 air traffic controllers by directing FAA to revise and implement improved staffing standards and requires the FAA to hire more manufacturing safety inspectors, engineers and technical specialists annually.

The bill requires airplanes to be equipped with 25-hour cockpit recording devices and directs the FAA to deploy advanced airport surface situational awareness technology to help prevent collisions — something the National Transportation Safety Board has urged.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)