Have you ever wondered if airline pilots get to a certain age and have to retire? After all, most people can’t seem to remember the last time they saw a pilot on a flight that looked very old. Pilots tend to look young and professional. It turns out this is a common question people have about the occupation. If you’re interested in becoming a pilot, you might be wondering – When do airline pilots retire?
The maximum age for an airline pilot before they are required to retire is 65.
Some pilots may choose to retire before that based on their own personal decision and financial situation.
Let’s take a look at some of the specific information about pilots and their retirement age.
Why a Required Retirement Age? (Maximum)
As stated above, the federally mandated maximum age of an airline pilot is 65 years old. The main reason for this, as you would expect, is for safety.
As people get older they can sometime start to have diminished motor skills, slower reaction time, and memory issues. In addition, as you get older you are more likely to have other health issues that can leave you in a position to be incapacitated while flying an airplane.
Another reason for this maximum age is that being a pilot can be both physically and mentally exhausting. Airline pilots have a grueling schedule doing a job that has a lot of responsibility. Dealing with long flights on small amounts of sleep and being away from home can really wear on a person. It’s also known to be even tougher to recover from as you advance in age.
Having a maximum age for airline pilots is all about the safety of passengers and the pilots themselves. The last thing anyone would want is for a pilot to be in an emergency situation and put the lives of everyone on the aircraft at risk due to their physical or mental capacity.
*Related: Requirements to be an airline pilot
Health and Skill Requirements
Although the maximum age for pilots in the United States is 65, that doesn’t mean that all pilots are able to stay in the role until that age. All pilots are required to pass strict medical exams as well as prove their proficiency as a pilot.
If a pilot starts to develop health issues that can affect their ability to safely fly an airplane and perform the duties of an airline pilot, they could end up having to retire well before they turn 65.
This can be disappointing for a pilot that enjoys their job and would prefer to continue to fly, but at the end of the day safety has to come first. Letting a pilot stay in their role after their health has deteriorated is dangerous and not something anyone would advocate for.
Differences Between Airlines
All airline in the United States have to comply with the FAA rule requiring pilots retire at 65. This FAA regulation is based on a rule set by the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO).
However, some countries have adopted different rules based on their aviation needs. Japan, for example, has increased the maximum age for pilots from 65 to 67 based on their need for pilots. In China, the maximum age a pilot can stay on the job is 60 years old. They currently have this lower limit on the maximum age for a pilot but are also considering raising the limit based on a shortage of airline pilots in their country as well.
As you can see, regulations around the world can vary based on the demand for pilots and their local safety protocols. One thing that most countries have in common though is slowly working towards increasing that maximum age a pilot can continue to fly. There is a global shortage of pilots and most countries would rather let existing pilots that are trained and safe in the air continue to fly for a couple additional years.
Early Retirement Offers
There are times when airline offer pilots nearing retirement age generous bonuses to retire early. It varies based on the needs of the airline and is affected by things like labor needs, current costs, and other market forces.
In cases like this, a pilot can retire a few years before the maximum retirement age and get a substantial bonus for doing so. In one recent example, there were early retirement offers to pilots nearing retirement age that were as high as $982,000. This package was based on the pilot retiring early but still having a full 5 years before retirement.
If you’re a pilot and due to market conditions the airline you work for is offering a substantial bonus to retire a few years early, it might be worth something seriously considering.
What Do Pilots do After They Retire?
Once a pilot retires from being an airline pilot, they have several options as to what they do next. Some pilots who are in good health and want to keep flying will take on other jobs in the aviation field that don’t have a regulated maximum age.
For many, a popular option is to be a flight instructor. This allows an experienced pilot to still get up in the air and stay involved with something they are passionate about.
In other cases, retired pilots can go about starting careers in other industries they might have an interest in. But, like everyone else, some former pilots just want to retire and spend time doing things they love that have nothing to do with flying an airplane. That can include spending time with family, traveling (for fun) or taking classes on a completely new topic.
The decision to retire is not one that anyone should take lightly – especially pilots. Though there is a maximum age at which you are required to retire (65) the right time for a pilot to retire might be before that based on a number of factors including their health, financial situation, and other plans they may have for their life. Being a pilot can be a stressful job – you go to work every day and are responsible for the lives of hundreds of people – so hanging up your wings before you turn 65 to focus on other things might be the right choice for some. While for others, they want to enjoy every last moment of flying aircraft.