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EASA pilot age limit workshop

Increasing age limits is seen as a means of mitigating the pilot shortage. ERA participated in an EASA workshop to discuss the findings of a research project commissioned by the agency to explore the potential of extending the medical privileges of multi-crew pilot medicals beyond the age of 65 as well as those for single-pilot commercial operations beyond 60.

Pilot age limits are intended to mitigate the risk of a sudden incapacitation due to the higher cardiovascular risk and the degenerative effect of ageing on all body systems. Throughout the history of aviation, age limits have been increased along with the increase of human life expectancy and decrease of mortality and morbidity due to age-related medical conditions. The current age limit for multi-crew commercial pilots was increased by ICAO in 2006 from 60 to 65 subject to the other pilot being below the age of 60. The restriction of having the second pilot below the age of 60 was removed in 2012, leading to the current implemented age limits of 65 years old in multi-pilot operations and 60 years old in single pilot commercial air transport (CAT) operations.

In 2016, during the ICAO Assembly, Japan informed ICAO and the other states that they are considering to increase the age limit to 68 under certain conditions. Furthermore, several ICAO states removed their age limits for pilots within their national systems.

The national retirement age among EU member states varies and are increasingly above the age of 65. Life expectancy in a majority of EU states has also increased over the last 10 years.

Taking into consideration the aspects mentioned above, EASA outsourced a research study commencing in late 2017 to evaluate if and how the increase of life expectancy is linked with  morbidity rates, and consequently the incidence and effect of age-related medical conditions for pilots.

EASA held a workshop 18-19 March 2019 to deliver the findings of an independent report published this week by the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), the Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NRL), and Practice of Cardiology, Internal Medicine and Aviation Medicine, Switzerland produced following a research project commissioned by EASA in 2017.

The objective of this workshop was for EASA to solicit ideas from the various delegates to find a more concrete way to move forward if an appetite exists in Europe to challenge the pertinent ICAO annexes which have been established for over 50 years. The preliminary outcome of the workshop demonstrates a significant wealth of global risk-based experience of certifying pilots beyond both 60 and 65 for their respective commercial operations, in particular in New Zealand, Japan and China but also some within Europe who feel that extending medical privilege is commercially driven and should be avoided. A comprehensive report will follow for those interested as well as being a topic that will be discussed at the spring ERA Operations Group meeting however, if you have questions or wish to participate in a future work plan, please contact