A US industry body is lending its support to new legislation that would allow healthy and safe pilots to remain flying until 67 years old, two years more than the current mandatory retirement of 65.

The “Let Experienced Pilots Fly Act” introduced on July 25 would help alleviate the current pilot shortage that has led airlines to ground aircraft and remove air service from hundreds of US communities, said the Regional Airline Association (RAA) which represents 43% of scheduled passenger flights in the US.

The Act includes a provision that pilots over 65 need to maintain a first-class medical certificate and renew it every six months.

At a news conference at Greenville/Spartanburg, SC airport, which has lost service because of the pilot shortage, Sen. Graham was joined by RAA senior director of government affairs Drew Jacoby Lemos.

“Communities are losing air service, including those in South Carolina, and this new legislation allowing safe, healthy pilots to remain on the job is an important step that is needed to solve the pilot shortage,” said Lemos. “The shortage has meant that 71% of the airports that have commercial air service have seen a decline in flights.”

RAA is committed to helping solve the pilot shortage problem, which has resulted in approximately 500 aircraft being grounded and air service curtailed due to lack of pilots.

Earlier this year, the RAA reported that 188 communities had lost at least 25% of their air service, either during the pandemic or during the first half of 2022 as the pilot shortage worsened.

According to the RAA, regional airlines in the US provide 75% or more of the air service in Alabama (81%), Alaska (87%), Arkansas (85%), Iowa (81%), Kansas (80%), Kentucky (76%), Maine (87%), Mississippi (94%), Montana (79%), North Dakota (87%), South Dakota (86%), Vermont (92%), West Virginia (92%).

Regional airlines provide half or more of the air service in Idaho (74%), Illinois (54%), Indiana (59%), Michigan (60%), Minnesota (51%), Nebraska (65%), New Hampshire (73%), New Mexico (59%), North Carolina (56%), Ohio (56%), Oklahoma (55%), Oregon (62%), Pennsylvania (58%), Puerto Rico (71%), South Carolina (61%), Virginia (57%), Wisconsin (67%), and Wyoming (68%).