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Age 60 - Reasons to stop flying in HEMS?


Stefan Becker
European HEMS and Air Ambulance Committee E.v.


The current European Age 60 regulation, as laid down in Regulation EU No. 1178/2011 under FCL.065, seems to be neither rational nor fair as a large scale study by the WHO Collaborating Centre for Occupational Health at the University of Munich has confirmed. The study had been commissioned by the European HEMS & Air Ambulance Committee (EHAC) with the goal to determine if and how the current age limit according to FCL.065 can be raised without a significant increase in the associated risk.

To answer this question, in the first step, 19 different biomarkers in the findings of the last 10 years of the pilots’ aeromedical examinations were analysed. In the second step, the pilots’ cognition was tested in two simulator scenarios. And in the third step, age-related incidents and accidents were analysed. No indications could be found justifying the current rulemaking.

The presentation will demonstrate the design and results of the EHAC Age 60 Study:

I. There is no reason for a general age limit of 60 years.
II. The current European Age 60 rule seems neither rational nor fair.
III. It results in a removal of most experienced pilots with overall good health status and safety may be impaired if replaced by unexperienced pilots.
IV. There is scarce evidence in favour of the Age 60 rule and that is hardly sufficient to justify the economic hardship imposed upon older pilots.

Already in the late 1950s, ICAO has issued the age limit of 60 years for pilots. The FAA wanted to implement the rule until 1963. Whereas for helicopter pilots in Europe there was no legally binding European regulation regarding this age limit, the ICAO standard was subsequently adopted in 2007 by the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) in Europe. Their rules for commercial helicopter operations, the so-called JAR-OPS 3, were also not legally binding for Europe. Only when the European Aviation Safety Agency decided to include the ICAO standard in the European flight crew licencing rules (FCL) as rule FCL.065, commercial single pilot helicopter operations by pilots over 60 years have been banned. Nonetheless, there are still approved exemptions by EASA for some countries. And, most of all, there is plenty of experience in helicopter operations by single pilots aged 60 to 65 years in Europe, permitting and feeding concepts to resolve the current unjustified age.



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