Minor update April 14, 2005


This is an annotated archive of documents and other materials spanning the entire 40-plus year history of the FAA's Age 60 Rule. Access is free to all for browsing, reading, or downloading.

Except where noted, the annotations have been prepared by your Webmaster, Woolsey. To identify errors or omissions, or for other comments, criticisms, and/or suggestions, contact me by e-mail at: S. Woolsey.

Additional materials will be added as they become available -- and time permits.

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Civil Aviation Act of 1938 (CAAct) (.pdf file, 636 Kb)
Sections relevant to the Age 60 Rule debate are extracted. The same sections are extracted from the 1958 Federal Aviation Act and provided below - with similarities/differences noted.

The Airport and Its Neighbors - Extract May 1952 (.pdf file, 516 Kb)
In 1952, concerned about takeoff and landing accidents, particularly in heavily populated areas, Pres. Harry Truman appointed the "Doolittle Commission" to consider and report on six specific matters he identified. Among a large number of unsolicited recommedations in this 115 page report was that "[a] thorough study of pilot aging and allied problems should be sponsored by the Aero-medical [sic] Association."

Committee on Pilot Aging formed. February 1953 (.pdf file, 340 Kb)
A comment appearing in the February 1953 issue of Aviation Medicine, the journal of the Aero Medical Association notes the formation of the Committee as recommended in the Doolittle report.

Report of the Committee on Pilot Ageing [sic] and Allied Problems. March 1954 (.pdf file, 648 Kb)
A progress report of the Committee. Note page three of the Report, next-to-last paragraph, where the Committee "expressed great interest in the possibility of using the Dehmel Flight Simulator as a possible method for checking the abilities of pilots in the older age range."
An FAA memo on the age limitation issue identifies another "progress report" issued in 1956. Queries to the FAA and correspondence and a personal visit to the AMA's offices have failed to unearth this report.

Federal Aviation Act of 1958 (FAAct) (.pdf file, 816 Kb)
Sections relevant to the Age 60 Rule debate are extracted.
Section 404 - statutory duty of air carrier to provide "safe and adequate service" is unchanged from the CAAct of 1938.
Section 601(a) - authority of Administrator to provide "reasonable rules and regulations governing, in the interest of safety, the maximum hours or periods of service of airmen" is unchanged.
Section 601(b) - requirement that the Administrator "give full consideration to the duty of air carriers to perform their services with the highest possible degree of safety in the public interest," and "in such manner as will best tend to reduce or eliminate the possibility, or recurrence of accidents" is unchanged.
Section 602(a) - authority to issue airman certificates is unchanged.
Section 602(b) - appeal from denial or suspension of certificates differs significantly from the 1938 CAAct, however. Under the 1958 FAAct, petition is to the CAB (now NTSB) rather than to the Circuit Courts, and, more significantly, in this hearing, the CAB (now NTSB) is not bound by the Administrator's prior findings of fact.

Preparation and promulgation of the Age 60 Rule - 1959:

The best description (then or since) of the circumstances surrounding imposition of the Age 60 Rule appears in Ruppenthal, K.M., Compulsory Retirement of Air Line Pilots , 14 Indus. & Lab. Rel. Rev., 528 (1961). Ruppenthal was a retired airline pilot, an attorney, and a professor in Stanford's Business School when he wrote this article. It should be available at any large university or public law library. (Many even private university law libraries are "government depositories," thus accessible by the public.)

For a description of the Air Line Pilots Association's industry-wide contract objectives and strategies that were pursued on an industry-wide basis in the early 1950's, see Chapter 6 of Baitsell, J.M., Airline Industrial Relations, Graduate School of Business Administration, Harvard University, Boston, Mass., 1966, Lib. of Cong. #66-22597

Smith-Quesada Letters (.pdf file, 208 Kb)
A personal request by C.R. Smith, Chairman of American Airlines, to his personal friend, (Ret.) Gen. Elwood Quesada, newly appointed Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is recognized virtually without dissent as the true impetus for creation of the Age 60 Rule. These Smith-Quesada letters became public only years later -- long after Ruppenthal had described the circumstances of its birth in the article referenced above.

Rough Draft (J.H. Britten, MD) Feb. 16, 1959 (.pdf file, 400 Kb)
Eleven days after Smith's initial ex-parte request, a rough draft of a medical rationale has been prepared.

Reighard suggests proficiency checks. Mar. 9, 1959 (.pdf file, 256 Kb)
Soon to become a major player in this effort, Dr. Reighard's initial suggestion of "ability to perform adequately under realistic flight conditions" being a "reasonable test" [made also by others - see the Hesburg letter, below], was never seriously considered.

Quesada-Hesburg letters. Mar. 30, 1959 (.pdf file, 348 Kb)
Responding to criticism from The Reverend Theodore Hesburg, President of Notre Dame, Quesada defends his proposed rule while admitting that "there exists at present no sound scientific evidence that airline pilots . . . become critically unsafe at any given age."

Quesada-ALPA letters. Apr. 3, 1959 (.pdf file, 704 Kb)
Quesada approaches ALPA's President, Clarence N. Sayen, seeking ALPA's acceptance of his proposals. Quesada suggests, as an alternative, what he has already placed in motion - a regulatory solution.

Minutes of the "Advisory Panel on Aging" meeting. Jun. 8, 1959 (.pdf file, 220 Kb)
On June 3, Quesada convened a one-day meeting of selected aviation and medical experts who, on the basis of his "training time charts" (prepared from Smith's transition training data), promptly endorsed 60 for mandatory retirement and, after some debate, age 55 for transition into jets.

Recent statement of Dr. James Birren Jan. 20, 1995 (.pdf file, 80 Kb)
Some 35 years later, one of the original panelists declares that, unaware of the controversy surrounding the issue, the panel's agreement was for a temporary adoption.

Navy's comments on Quesada's age limitation proposals. Jun. 25, 1959 (.pdf file, 552 Kb)
At the Jun. 3rd meeting, the panelists were asked to submit comments within two weeks. Only that of the Navy's Admiral Hogan were in the Reighard files. Adm. Hogan recommends a maximum age of 50, although the Navy's age limit was then 62.

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (.pdf file, 1.4 Mb)
Published in the Federal Register June 27, 1959. At the time, Parts 40, 41, and 42 of the FAA's regulations corresponded to today's Part 121.
The origina proposal was for two limitations: 1) a maximum age of 55 for pilots to transition into the newly arriving jet transports, and 2) mandatory retirement at age 60.

Quesada's morbidity data for "white males" in 1957. Jul. 27, 1959 (.pdf file, 152 Kb)
Still seeking data with which to bolster his case, Quesada seeks morbidity data for the general population (not air carrier pilots). The information is provided (with qualifications) by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Quesada's bibliography justifying the Rule. Aug. 5, 1959 (.pdf file, 268 Kb)
Sayen (ALPA President) has asked to review the FAA's data supporting its proposed Rule (i.e., the "docket"). In response, Quesada provided a list of 41 references, and directed Sayen to the local library.
For a modern analysis of the cited docments, see the statement of an EEOC trial attorney, immediately below.

EEOC senior trial attorney researches and comments on the FAA's bibliography. 12 Oct. 1990 (.pdf file, 192 Kb)
In the mid 1980s, EEOC established a dedicated litigation unit to challenge non-air carrier companies that relied on the Age 60 Rule as justification for mandatory age-based retirements for their corporate and test pilots. Shortly after retiring as Federal Air Surgeon, Dr. Reighard was hired by the Boeing Company as a defense witness. In a deposition for that suit (EEOC v. Boeing), Dr, Reighard produced the 1959 bibliography for possible use as a defense exhibit. [see: 1959-84, The Reighard Files on the Expose' page] EEOC attorney Bloomfield researched the studies cited, and reported her findings in a sworn declaration for a similar suit against the Lockheed Corporation. (EEOC v Lockheed Corp.)

After losing on a motion for summary judgment (see EEOC v. Boeing, 843 F.2d 1213 (9th Cir., 1988), Boeing settled rather than go to trial on the merits. Lockheed also settled, as did all the major aircraft companies. Only a few private companies with large corporate fleets chose trial - and all who did, lost. The military services, NASA, and other government agencies voluntarily abandoned their age-based pilot retirement policies. (Today, neither space shuttle pilots, nor those flying the President on Air Force One are subject to a maximum age limit.) By the mid 1990's, NO mandatory age-based pilot retirement practices existed anywhere in the U.S. (industry or government - state or federal) except in the Part 121 (large aircraft) air carrier operations.

Report on foreign pilot retirement policies. Aug. 19, 1959 (.pdf file, 728 Kb)
Although many major international air carriers had varying retirement age limits, only Spain had a (then recently enacted) government imposed limit of age 55. The author suggests that most of the air carrier policies (both for transition into high performance aircraft and for retirement) were motivated by economic considerations. Also, there were remarkably few pilots with these companies approaching the various retirement age limits.

Review of "Pilot Aging Charts" by FAA's General Counsel's Office. Oct. 9, 1959 (.pdf file, 88 Kb)
FAA's staff attorneys review the FAA's (Quesada's) transition training time charts (from Smith's data), declares them inadequate justification for the Rule - and advises reliance on inexact "medical" issues, instead. Although both Smith and the FAA have previously advanced "medical issues" as justification, this appears to be the true basis for the FAA's later reliance on "medical uncertainties" when justifying and defending its Rule.

Comments on Draft Releases [NPRMs] Oct. 9, 1959 (.pdf file, 312 Kb)
FAA work paper analyzing public comments on its age 60 proposal.

FAA's "Legal Considerations" prompted by ALPA's comments Oct. 9, 1959 (.pdf file, 452 Kb)
FAA work paper analyzing ALPA's comments on the age 60 proposal. Explores and explains the legal considerations. Argues "periods of service" under Section 601 of the 1958 Federal Aviation Act (FAAct). (See p. 3.) But does Congress' "periods of service" in Section 601 refer to maximum hours the pilot may fly per day/week/month/year? Or does it mean, as FAA argues here, the "period of time" (service) between the minimum age of 23 and the maximum age of 60? Argues that the Rule does not "take" the pilot's license (a property right?), only limits its exercise.

Final Rule. (.pdf file, 732 Kb)
Announced December 1, 1959, published in the Federal Register Dec. 5th, to become effective March 15, 1960. Only Part 40 is presented. As were the NPRM's Parts 41 and 42 are essentially identical.
Only the age-60 retirement rule was enacted at this time. A decision on the maximum age limit for transitioning into jets was delayed until January, 1960, at which time it was dropped.

Age 60 Rule Press Release (.pdf file, 268 Kb)
Issued in conjunction with publication of the Rule in the Federal Register.

Questions & Answers relating to the new Rule (.pdf file, 356 Kb)
Published as a part of the Press Release.

more to come.

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ALPA v. Quesada Mar. 14, 1960 (.pdf file, 704 Kb)
This, ALPA's first legal challenge sought an injunction to prohibit enforcement of the rule. Casting in bronze the FAA's central argument: "One cannot say with certainty that a given man over 60 cannot safely pilot a modern transport ... . But there is increasing evidence that as men grow older, they unfortunately experience deterioration for which maturity, experience, judgment, and skill cannot compensate adequately," the court holds for the FAA. The decision is upheld on appeal: ALPA v. Quesada 286 F.2d 319 (2d Cir. 1961)

Georgetown Clinical Research Institute and Lovelace Foundation studies (1960s)

In 1989, FAA advised the Government Accounting Office (GAO) that it had relied on 7 "major studies" in "rejecting alternatives to the Age 60 Rule." Seepg. 17, GAO/RCED-90-45FS, Aviation Safety Report, Information on FAA's Age 60 Rule for Pilots. Two of the studies so identified were the FAA's own (but not identified as such) Georgetown Clinical Research Institute (FAA-GCRI) study, and the Lovelace Foundation study.

FAA's statement to GAO regarding these two studies was false on its face.

Realizing the bright-line, fixed-age standard it was establishing was both arbitrary and without empirical justification, FAA decided early in its preparation of the Rule to pair it with a 25-year longitudional study of the aging pilot. The stated objective was development of a "physiologic aging ratio" with which to replace the fixed-age rule with individualized assessments. To this end, FAA asked the Lovelace Foundation (Albuquerque, N.M.) to conduct a feasibility study of what was to become their FAA-GCRI study - a project it intended to conduct out of rented space at the Georgetown Medical Center, Washington, D.C. See p. 11, House Report No. 2080, 89th Cong., 2d Sess., Better Management Needed of Medical Research on Aging, Sept. 21, 1966. (Statement by GAO.) The Lovelace review concluded that FAA's plan was unworkable - recommending an alternative program in its stead. See p.31, Research Planning Study of Aging Criteria, Final Report, FAA Project No. FA-904, Lovelace Foundation, July 31, 1961. [Document too large to reproduce here.]

Ignoring this negative assessment (and accompanying recommendation), FAA began its FAA-GCRI study in 1960 - using its original protocol - but enrolling primarily air traffic controllers (some of whom held pilots licenses), and only a few air carrier pilots. See pp. 13, 22, and 24, House Report No. 2080. (These statements by GAO (p. 13), and HEW (pp. 24 & 22) have never been challenged by the FAA.) Conceeding gross mismanagement, FAA voluntarily abandoned their FAA-GCRI study in early 1966 - just as the (House) Government Operations Committee began an investigation of unnecessary duplicaton of efforts (wasting money) in pilot aging research. FAA admitted to the investigators that, during its 5-year existence, it had collected no useable data, and had no protocol with which to analyze such data if any were available - and promised to look thereafter to the parallel Lovelace Foundation study for its aging pilot data. See pp. 3-4, House Report No. 2080.

The FAA spent somewhere between $1 and $2.5 Milion on its FAA-GCRI project, yet produced nothing on which any reliance could even arguably have been made by the FAA - for any purpose. (For the $1 Million figure - See p. 13, House Report No. 2080, comments of GAO. For the $2.5 Million figure - See p. 51, Hearing, (House) Select Committee on Aging, Age Discrimination Against Airline Pilots, March 21, 1979, Comments of Dr. Homer Reighard, Federal Air Surgeon.)

When FAA rejected the Lovelace recommendation, and began their own flawed GCRI project, Lovelace applied to the National Insititute of Health (NIH, a part of Health, Education & Welfare - HEW) for funds with which to pursue their alternative protocol as an additional long-term longitudional study - with the twin goals of: 1) basic research into "normal" human aging (i.e., aging independent of pathologic complications), and 2) use of this data to assist in the development of the "physiologic aging ratio" for pilots that was the FAA's declared objective. See pp. 1-2, 1965 Progress Report, Study of Physiological and Psychological Aging, Lovelace Foundation, NIH Grant No. HD-0518, July, 1965. See, also, p. 22, House Report 2080. (Stmt. of HEW.)

Unfortunately, NIH terminated funding for this unique study in 1969 - after 8 years - with preliminary data just then becoming available. No similar research into the "normal" human aging process has been conducted - before or since. The loss to science and medicine is incalculable.

A substantial body of evidence suggests, moreover, that FAA had a significant interest - and perhaps a part - in terminating this study.

It appears that FAA's concern arose after Lovelace had first refused a request (by the Federal Air Surgeon) that it abandon the study of older pilots, and later to suppress preliminary "aging" data so uniformly favorable to the older pilot as to challenge the very rationale for - thus threaten the FAA's ability to defend its Rule. To review the evidence of FAA's involvement, turn to the EXPOSE' pages, and select "1960-69: Georgetown & Lovelace Studies" from that Menu. Start your examination with the "Siegel-Schwichtenbeg" letter (1967), proceed through the 8 documents that follow, ending with the hand-written "Pete to Rick" memo (1970).

House Report 2080
Because of its historical relevance to both the FAA-GCRI and Lovelace studies - and FAA's more recent assertions to GAO - House Report No. 2080 is presented in full. Due to its size, however, the Report is divided into and posted as 4 separate sections - Committee Statements, Statements of GAO, FAA response, and HEW response.

Committee Statements, (.pdf file, 1 Mb)

Statement of GAO, (.pdf file, 1 Mb)

FAA response, (.pdf file, 536 Kb)

HEW response, (.pdf file, 1.1 Mb)

More from the 1960's to come.

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FAA Memorandum: Missing Regulatory Dockets 40, 41 and 42. July 11, 1973 (.pdf file, 148 Kb)
FAA "lost" the entire Age-60 Docket.

Public Law 96-171mandating a study to examine the Age 60 Rule, Dec. 29, 1979 (.pdf file, 104 Kb)
In 1979, The Pilots Rights Association succeeded in getting a Bill reported out of the House Committee on Public Works and Transportation (H.R. 3948, 96th Cong., 1st Sess.) that would have prevented the FAA from enforcing any age below 65. The Bill was eventually amended to order, instead, a study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This proposal was subsequently enacted by the Congress and signed into law by the President, becoming Public Law 96-171.
NIH assigned responsibility for the study to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), which contracted with the Institutes of Medicine (IOM - a member of the National Academy of Science (NAS)) to perform the actual review. The IOM report was forwarded to the NIA (Dr. Robert N. Butler, Director) in March of 1981. A Panel on the Experienced Pilot Study (formed by NIA in Feb. 1981) held hearings and received public comments in April, May, and June of that year. The Panel's report was submitted to the NIH in August of that year.
The NIA report appears in the 1980's section, below.

More still to come.

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The National Institutes of Health study of the desireability of a mandatory retirement for air carrier pilots, mandated by Pub. L. 96-171. (Enacted Dec. 1979, see above.) Due to its size, this NIA Report is presented in sections. The IOM Report and associated Comments are too extensive to reproduce here.

Introductory pages from the NIH/NIA's Panel on the Experienced Pilots Study. August, 1981 (.pdf file, 488 Kb)
Includes the Index, enumerates the 5 specific questions posed in the legislation, Acknowledgements, and the Panel's membership.

Conclusions and Recommendations from the NIH/NIA's Panel on the Experienced Pilots Study. August, 1981 (.pdf file, 712 Kb)
Although relatively short - this is the most divergently quoted portion of the study. To read the "pro Rule" and "anti Rule" proponents' statements, one would think they were speaking of two different reports.

The five Questions (and Panel "Answers") from Pub. Law 96-171. August, 1981 (.pdf file, 1.3 Mb)
Largely ignored in the pro/anti rule debate, these pages best articulate the NIA Panel's thinking.

A "protocol" for gathering the necessary data as proposed by the NIH/NIA's Panel on the Experienced Pilots Study. August, 1981 (.pdf file, 412 Kb)
While finding "no special significance to age 60 as a mandatory age for retirement of airline pilots," the Panel recommended that "a systematic program to collect the medical and performance data necessary to consider relaxation" of the Rule be conducted. These pages set forth in broad outline the Panel's recommended approach.

More still to come.

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In 1999 the Professional Pilots Federation (PPF) petitioned the FAA for exemptions to the Rule. Following are some of the submissions to that docket. (Complete docket accessible at http://dms.dot.gov Click on "Search," then search by docket number - #8016 for the PPF docket.)

Statement & protocol Age 60 [Medical] Exemption Panel

Statement of J.R. Almond, MD Chairman of the Age 60 Pilot Limitations committee of the Civil Aviation Medical Association (CAMA) (88 Kb .pdf file)

Statement of Robert Perry Safety record of 31 over age-60 pilots during 101,800 flight hours.

Data on the 32 pilots over age-60. (64 Kb .pdf file)

More to come.

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In 2000, Sen. Frank Murkowski (AK) introduced S-1855 to prohibit the FAA from enforcing any age below 65 (in effect make it an Age 65 Rule) due to a shortage of pilots in sparsely populated, rural states. Died in Committee.

Shortly after Congress convened in 2001, companion Bills were introduced into both the Senate and House to agin restrict the FAA from enforcing any age belowe 65. They are: S. 361. (.pdf file, 68 Kb)
A Bill to establish age limitations for airmen; and H.R. 448 (.pdf file, 68 Kb)
A Bill to limit age restrictions imposed by the FAA for the issuance or renewal of certain airman certificates, and for other purposes.

Commerce Committee hearings on S.361 were held Tuesday, March 13, and an amended Bill was approved by the Committee on Thursday, March 15. Early word is that the age was reduced to 63, a crew-pairing restriction and authority for additional medical testing were added.
Dr. Wilkening was one of four witnesses on March 13th. Her remarks are available now. Others will be added as they become available.

Statement of Dr. Robin Wilkening, MD, MPH at the March 13, 2001 hearing. (.pdf file, 504 Kb)

Considering that the various positions are not expected to change year-to-yer, statements from hearings in 2000 follow:

Statement of Senator Murkowski (.html file, 12 Kb)
Senator Murkowski (R, AK) introduced the Bill.

Statement of Duane Woerth (.pdf file, 612 Kb)
Air Line Pilots Association

Statement of Capt. Paul Emens (.html file, 16 Kb)
Chairman of PAAD - Pilots Against Age Discrimination

More to come.

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