EXCLUSIVE: Republican Rep. Chip Roy will introduce legislation Tuesday that would raise the federal mandatory retirement age for airline pilots by two years in an effort to keep more aviators in the cockpit amid a pilot shortage plaguing commercial carriers.
The bill, titled the Let Experienced Pilots Fly Act and viewed exclusively by FOX Business prior to being filed, bumps the pilot retirement age from 65 to 67, but does not make other major changes to the current law governing commercial pilot retirements. It is co-sponsored by fellow GOP Reps. Clay Higgins, Dusty Johnson, Mary Miller, Adrian Smith and Lauren Boebert. Sen. Lindsey Graham will introduce the bill in the Senate.
"Following the heavy-handed stupidity of government lockdowns, travel demand has naturally skyrocketed," Roy told FOX Business in a statement. "However, Americans are now experiencing flight delays and cancellations on an unacceptable scale due to a worsening pilot shortage."
He added, "A key factor is a government-mandated retirement age that forces out thousands of our most qualified pilots every year."
One forecast by consulting firm Oliver Wyman estimates North America will be short 12,000 pilots by 2023. Meanwhile, nearly 14,000 qualified U.S. pilots will be forced to retire due to the federal mandatory pilot retirement age over the next five years.
The GOP proposal to raise the age limit for commercial pilots is likely to face opposition from Democrats, after the Biden administration threw cold water on the idea earlier this month.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told "FOX News Sunday" that pilot retirement ages were "there for a reason" and that he was "not going to be on board with anything that compromises safety."
"The answer is not to keep the baby boomer generation in the cockpit indefinitely," Buttigieg said.
"The answer is to make sure we have as many and as good pilots ready to take their place, to have a stronger pipeline," he continued. "We’re backing that up with FAA programs that support high school and college curriculum to get into aviation, and of course ultimately it’ll be for the airlines and those employers to hire and retain excellent talent."