Last week's death of an airline pilot midway over the Atlantic Ocean has reopened debate on the link between passenger safety and pilot age. Until 2007, commercial pilots were forced to retire at age 60, though that has now been extended to 65. Critics say the extra five years could lead to more heart attacks in the cockpit, but many experts disagree. Airline pilots of all ages "are required to go through a first-class physical," says an aeronautics professor at MIT. "I'm not sure the risk of a heart attack changes significantly between 60 and 65." Safety experts also say that pilots' years of experience can be invaluable in emergency situations, such as the water landing of a US Airways jet earlier this year by a 58-year-old pilot.
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