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Low-fare carrier Southwest Airlines plans to support a group of pilots who are challenging a federal rule that forces them to retire at 60, a spokesman for the airline said Saturday. Southwest plans to file a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court opposing the 1950s regulation that bars airline pilots from flying after they reach 60, regardless of their health, said Ed Stewart, a Southwest spokesman. “Our thought is that Southwest Airlines has dedicated and talented pilots that are being forced to retire because of chronological age,” Stewart said. The Federal Aviation Administration says the retirement rule is necessary for safety. Officials have argued that pilots lose critical cognitive and motor skills as they age. But some unions and aviation organizations say the rule violates age discrimination regulations. They contend that pilots’ competency and health should be considered when deciding their ability to fly. Southwest’s support of the challenge was first reported in Time magazine, which said 12 pilots wanting waivers for the age-60 rule had asked the Supreme Court recently to review their challenge. It was not clear when the airline would file the brief. The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association has supported reviewing the rule. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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