Older Pilot Grounded Despite Rule Change

American Airlines pilot Henry Weiland’s sixtieth birthday came six days too early and as a result his wings have been clipped by the airline and the courts.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld dismissal of Weiland, who turned 60 just six days before the Federal Aviation Administration’s rule Age 60 Rule was abandoned by a new federal law.

In a divided 2-1 decision, the appeals court found Weiland did not qualify for an exemption that allowed pilots working of flight crews at the time of the new law to be retroactively covered.

Under the FAA’s Age 60 Rule, air carriers had to stop scheduling pilots to fly aircraft once they turned 60.  Then in 2007 the Fair Treatment for Experienced Pilots Act delayed the age from 60 to 65 and had limited retroactive applications.

Weiland sued claiming that although he turned 60 six days before the law took effect and was grounded, it should apply to him retroactively, giving him five more years to fly.

“Because Weiland did not qualify for an exception to the FTERA’s non-retroactivity, its abrogation of the FAA’s Age 60 Rule is inapplicable to Weiland,” wrote Judge Frederick Motz, visiting judge from Baltimore.  He was joined by Judge Ronald Gould.

Weiland, thus, was too old to fly planes by six days.

In dissent, Judge Stephen Reinhardt said the law allowed for over age 60 pilots if they were employed by an air carrier  as a “required flight deck crew member” on the day the law was enacted.

Weiland was a pilot, which is certainly a required flight deck crew member, Reinhardt argued.

The exception Congress made “for pilots who were 60 as of the date of enactment and employed by the air carrier on that date fits Weiland to a T,” Reinhardt said.

Case: Weiland v. American Airlines, Inc. No. 11-56088


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