The Age 60 Rule: Profiles, Probabilities, and Stereotypes – Case Study Example

The Age 60 Rule Number The Age 60 Rule The Federal Aviation Act of 1958 conferred upon the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), powers to formulate and implement rules that would foster air safety for the duration of service of pilots and crew. In addition, Congress did not only permit, but obligated the director of the aviation authority to regulate the industry in a manner that would reasonably limit or curb the repetition of air disasters. In light of this Act, the FAA created the Age 60 Rule in the late 1950s to limit air disasters. However, the rule has since attracted much debate and a judicial intervention.
Question # 1
In light of perceived discrimination in the implementation of the Age 60 rule, the case of Professional Pilots Association v FAA (1997) sought to overturn the FAA decision. The issues set for determination in the case were: a) whether the FAA Age 60 policy met the thresholds of “arbitrary and capricious” standards, and; b) whether both sides provided adequate evidence to substantiate their cases. The court was right in its establishment of the existence of arbitrary and capricious rule; and the legality of the FAA decision to bar pilots who are aged 60 years from flying planes.
As Schauser (2003) has said, the FAA’s decision was arbitrary and capricious in the sense that it had acted alone in the matter, and; which clearly abused the authority vested in it. But, regardless of the arbitrary and capricious enforcement of the Age 60 Rule, the court was right to hold that the claimants overlooked the issue of non-existing alternative methods of diagnoses which could be used to weed out pilots who are more susceptible to health risks when they attain 60 years. In light of this, the court was just by stating that a blanket barring would save the airline industry the costs of carrying out insufficient diagnoses that would only serve to increase the risks of accidents resulting from unforeseen health complications in the pilots.
Question # 2
Arbitrary and Capricious test refers to a party engaging in a unilateral action that is informed by their position of authority and therefore sending the message of abuse of power to the detriment of others. In United States, the test is one of the most important standards for deciding appeal cases. In this case, therefore, the court was right in its ruling that the FAA acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner by implementing the Age 60 Rule. This is so considering that there was absence of logical link between the medical tests that place some people at risk of incapacity and the decision to bar any pilot who is 60 years and above from flying planes, regardless of their medical history. The disconnect which the court established, was that some airmen can remain healthy and competent well into the 60s, and therefore, the FAA’s rule that forces them to retire when they are still productive was tantamount to abuse of authority by the regulator (Schauser, 2003).
Question # 3
There are two logical arguments as to whether the Age 60 Rule should be amended to allow pilots to fly planes for at least five more years. Firstly, life expectancy in the United States has increased from 69.7 years in 1960 (around the time when the Age 60 Rule came into effect), to 78.6 years in 2011. The improvement has been occasioned by better health care services. If granted, the almost 10-year gain in life-expectancy should be reflected in the retirement age for airmen, in which case, it would be logical to add pilots about 10 more years of work life. Secondly, it is apparent that the more a pilot flies a plane, the more he or she becomes experienced should also inform the reason behind adjusting the retirement age upwards. This is especially true considering that most pilots attain flying experience of 15,000 hours and above when they are nearing or in their 50s. So adjusting the age of their retirement to about 65 would enable airliners to enjoy the services of experienced pilots for a reasonable time of about 15 hours, and therefore reduce accidents caused by inexperienced aviators.
Thirdly the Age 60 Rule violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). The ADEA seeks to protect employees from discrimination based on promotions, termination of service and dismissal among other issues (Schauser, 2003). In addition, the case of Meacham v. Knolls Atomic Power Lab (2008) 554 U.S. 84, the United States Supreme Court also outlawed age discrimination. The Court said that if age discrimination was established, the employer must prove that their actions were based on a “reasonable factor.” In this case, subjecting all pilots who are 60 years old to blanket retirement that they might cause accidents, with no consideration for their health history can be construed as too speculative and injurious to the older professionals and therefore illegal.
Generally, the implementation of the Age 60 Rule, which seeks to enforce the retirement of airline pilots when they reach 60 years was based on the fact that such individuals usually experience a progressive weakening of certain vital physiological and psychological capacities, and cannot effectively be entrusted with the safety of the passengers and planes they fly. The FAA has argued that individuals who are aged 60 years have been medically proven to be susceptible to errors and thus might compromise airline safety, especially when the situation calls for swift actions and high psychological duress, hence the implementation of the controversial rule. The court has so far legitimized the Rule.
Schauser, F.F. (2003). Profiles, Probabilities, and Stereotypes. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.