Graham backs increasing pilot retirement age

Published: Jul. 25, 2022 at 8:53 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - With flight delays and cancellations causing headaches this summer throughout the U-S, Sen. Lindsey Graham backs a proposal that may help a situation he says may only get worse soon.

The South Carolina Republican says that’s because thousands of pilots will be reaching retirement age in the coming years.

Graham says delays and cancellations especially hurt travelers at regional airports – like here at Greenville-Spartanburg.

Now he’s calling for Congress to step in by raising the mandatory retirement age for commercial pilots by two years.

“We have a crisis when it comes to airline travel. We have a pilot shortage, and those who say we don’t — well they’re just full of it,” Graham said Monday at a news conference in Greer.

Graham is proposing legislation that would raise the mandatory retirement age for commercial pilots from 65 to 67.

The goal is to allow more pilots to stay in the cockpit if they want to stay on the job and if they remain qualified to fly.

“Canada, Australia, Japan, other countries have a system similar to what I’m doing,” he said. “I wouldn’t do this if I thought it would compromise safety.”

Graham says upping the retirement age would prevent flight delays and cancelations because of worker shortages, a problem he believes is only going to get worse.

“in the next two years, 5,000 pilots are going to be timed out,” he said. “In the next four years, 14,000 pilots are going to be timed out.”

The Regional Airline Association backs the bill – saying it would keep more routes going to regional airports, like those in South Carolina.


“Despite passenger demand returning to 2019 levels, 71% of airports, or 315 airports, have lost flights since 2019,” Regional Airline Association Senior Director of Public Affairs Drew Jacoby Lemos said. “This includes nine that have lost service completely.”

Graham especially called for his Democratic colleagues to get on board as they currently hold majorities in both chambers of Congress.

“And if we take over the Senate in 2022, I promise you this issue will come to the floor of the United States Senate because the traveling public needs some relief, and we need it now,” Graham said.

Two big opponents of this proposal are pilot unions and the Biden administration.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg has cited safety concerns in his opposition, saying there needs to be a stronger pipeline of future pilots to address this problem instead.

Graham says he does want to explore ways to get more pilots into that pipeline in the long term but believes his bill is a better shorter-term solution.

Copyright 2022 WCSC. All rights reserved.