The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced it will no longer enforce its requirement that airline pilots aged 60 and over, who are the pilot in command on international flights operated by scheduled air carriers (commercial airlines), be paired with a co-pilot under age 60. Pilot Age Limit Crew Pairing Requirement, FAA Notice of Policy, 79 Fed. Reg. 67346 (Nov. 13, 2014). The agency will publish a final rule in 2015 to make conforming changes to applicable relevant regulations (e.g., 14 CFR 61.3(j), 61.77(g) and 121.383(d)(2) and (e)(2)).

An airline pilot pairing requirement for international flights under the Fair Treatment of Experienced Pilots Act (Pub. L. No. 110-135, Dec. 13, 2007) (the “Fair Treatment Act”) states:

A pilot who has attained 60 years of age may serve as pilot-in-command in [airline] operations between the United States and another country only if there is another pilot in the flight deck crew who has not yet attained 60 years of age. 

This requirement mirrored the standard of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which is responsible for developing international standards and recommendations for civil aviation regulations. The Fair Treatment Act’s pilot pairing requirement includes a sunset provision that would be triggered when ICAO removes its own pilot pairing limitation. The FAA believes the legislative intent of the Fair Treatment Act was to harmonize the Federal Aviation Regulations with the ICAO standards regarding pilot age limitations. 

On March 3, 2014, ICAO Council members approved removal of its pilot pairing requirement, effective November 13, 2014. Accordingly, the FAA concluded the Fair Treatment Act’s sunset provision for its own pilot pairing requirement was triggered on November 13, 2014, and it will no longer enforce the pilot pairing requirements. The FAA also has implemented a rulemaking change to update the applicable language, which will be published as a final rule in 2015.