Britain to allow all commercial pilots to fly after 60

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BRITAIN is to become the first country to raise the maximum age of pilots on all commercial aircraft to 65, through rules about to be introduced by the Civil Aviation Authority.

To allay fears about pilots having heart attacks or strokes, those over 60 will have to be accompanied by a colleague under 60. The change is being brought in before Europe-wide legislation which is expected to be introduced in 1998.

Pilots over 60 have until now been allowed to fly business jets as long as they were accompanied by a colleague below 60. It will be up to individual airlines to decide on retirement ages, and one, Airtours, has already agreed to allow its pilots to fly until 65. There will be no special checks on the older pilots who will, like all other commercial pilots, have to undergo a six-monthly medical test.

Airtours has a dozen aircraft and flies to most of the common holiday destinations in Europe and the United States. Other airlines are considering the rule, which is expected to come into force later this month.

The move to allow older pilots appears designed to allay fears that a shortage of aircrew may develop over the next few years if demand for air travel continues to increase at the high rates experienced this year. Although there are sufficient pilots at present, there are predicted shortages later in the 1990s when large numbers of retirements are expected.

The only special condition on the older pilots will be a requirement that one of the persons in the cockpit should be under 60.

A spokeswoman for British Airways, which has a policy of retiring its pilots at 55, said last night: 'We have sufficient pilots at present and we have no plans to change our policy.' However, some pilots feel that BA's policy may not be sustainable under European legislation.