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FAA Reconsiders Pilot Retirement Age

Current law requires American pilots to retire once they turn 60, but the federal government is considering changing the age to 65. The NewsHour reports on the law's impact on the airline industry.

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  • TOM BEARDEN, NewsHour Correspondent:

    Southwest Airlines Flight 1 had an engine on fire.

  • PILOT:

    Declare an emergency, please.

  • TOM BEARDEN:

    Pilots Bob Torti and Ron Sparks had just lifted off from the runway when the warning sounded.

  • PILOT:

    Southwest, turn back to the airport, please.

  • TOM BEARDEN:

    No excitement. No panic.

  • PILOT:

    Fire trucks are standing by, is that correct?

  • CO-PILOT:

    That is correct.

  • PILOT:

    Roger that. Speed brake is on. V-Light, flash 15, please. Landing gear is down, three green, thousand feet, 140, 800. Coming back on the speed just a little.

  • TOM BEARDEN:

    They went through the checklist for a one-engine flight and brought the 737 safely back to the ground. Well, sort of. They never actually left the ground in the first place. This 737 cockpit is a simulator at Southwest Airlines' training facility in Dallas.

  • PILOT:

    All right. Piece of cake.

  • TOM BEARDEN:

    Both pilots have decades of experience. They've practiced this emergency procedure, and many others, countless times. But neither one will ever fly passengers again. A Federal Aviation Administration regulation forced both men to retire the day they turned 60 years old.

    How would you assess individually yourselves, your skills as pilots today?

    BOB TORTI, Director of Flight Training, Southwest Airlines: Well, I think I just demonstrated that we actually flew almost a perfect approach and take-off with an engine failure. And I feel right now that I am at the prime of my career, with 30 years' experience at Southwest Airlines. And it's a shame that the law is what it is.