Japan eyes later pilot retirement amid shortage

Japan appears set to relax rules to let pilots fly until they are 67 as it tries to ease a shortage created by the growing popularity of air travel, an official said Tuesday. -- PHOTO: AFP
Japan appears set to relax rules to let pilots fly until they are 67 as it tries to ease a shortage created by the growing popularity of air travel, an official said Tuesday. -- PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan appears set to relax rules to let pilots fly until they are 67 as it tries to ease a shortage created by the growing popularity of air travel, an official said Tuesday.

Under current rules, airline pilots must hang up their hats when they hit 64, a standard set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation and followed by many countries.

But surging demand by passengers, especially for low-cost carriers, has left the country with a shortage of pilots and last year forced airlines to cancel thousands of flights.

"By raising the age limit, we want to solve the shortage of pilots in the short term," said a transport ministry official.

The ministry is inviting public comment on the possible change and hopes it will take effect by late April, he said.

"The ministry is considering raising the age limit but also imposing stricter conditions on them, such as shorter flying hours," he said, adding stricter health checks would be required.

The ministry could also demand a co-pilot be aged 59 or younger when a pilot in command is 65 or older, while limiting their flying hours to 80 percent of the usual time - allowing them to be behind the controls for just 80 hours per month or 216 hours over three months.

Japan raised the age limit for a pilot in command from 62 to 64 in 2004.

Some countries such as Australia and New Zealand have no age restrictions, the official said.