Jonathan Turley, George Washington University law professor, said today in a teleconference that litigation is moving forward in a case seeking to overturn a 2007 law that forces airline pilots to retire at age 65. The teleconference was held to update the status of the lawsuit.
Turley is spearheading the lawsuit on behalf of the Senior Pilots Coalition. The next major step in litigation will come on June 11, when parties in the lawsuit will file their briefs with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
The coalition challenged the law shortly after it was enacted in December, 2007. Because the Department of Justice tried to use the new law to dismiss down a number of petitions filed on behalf of the pilots, Turley moved to have the court of appeals determine whether the law is constitutional before it can be used to dismiss cases. Turley's motion will allow the court to review the law much faster than it would have otherwise.
The 2007 “Fair Treatment for Experienced Pilots Act” was intended to alleviate concerns related to older pilots, but because it was not retroactive, Turley says many pilots have been forced to retire arbitrarily.
The coalition estimates that about 3,000 pilots have been forced to retire by the FAA, and only about 2 percent have been rehired by U.S. airlines. Most of the pilots, who are also veterans, have had to seek employment with foreign carriers in places like Panama, India, and Kazakhstan.
"This law makes no sense. Experienced pilots are the ones you want flying the plane because they have flown every model out there. Imagine if this law was directed at doctors. It would affect the very people you want treating you. You want someone with experience, not someone fresh out of medical school," Turley says.
Turley says the law arbitrarily strips pilots of their position, seniority, and benefits at the age of 60, which is in “direct conflict with international laws” that allow pilots to continue to fly until the age of 65. Foreign pilots over age 60 can still pilot flights into the U.S.
“Congress intervened to create chaos. It was a challenge for them to make the situation worse, and they found a way. They didn’t even try to keep up appearances of making the law fair. The only motive for this law is to punish older pilots,” he says.
SPC President Lewis Tetlow says the organization is hoping to raise $100,000 to finance the lawsuit, but because most of the organization’s members are out of work pilots who have lost their retirement packages, the effort has been difficult.