FAA Backtracks on Sleep Apnea Policy

** Photo credit to D Sharon Pruitt**

The FAA is telling Aviation Medical Examiners to disregard, for now, the controversial obstructive sleep apnea policy introduced last month in a medical bulletin. In a memo to AMEs, the agency instructs physicians not to include body mass index calculations as part of airman medical examinations, at least not yet.

The about-face comes after Congress stepped in with a bill that would require the FAA to use the normal rulemaking process before implementing the sweeping policy change. The Civil Aviation Medical Association (CAMA), the professional organization for Aviation Medical Examiners, has also weighed in against the sleep apnea policy, telling FAA Administrator Michael Huerta in a letter that "no scientific body or evidence has demonstrated that undiagnosed obesity or OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) has compromised aviation safety."

The FAA memo to medical examiners doesn't mean the sleep apnea rule is dead, only that the agency has decided to slow the adoption of the unpopular policy after it was proposed last month by federal air surgeon Dr. Fred Tilton in the Federal Air Surgeon's Medical Bulletin. EAA, AOPA and other aviation organizations are encouraging pilots to continue to support the House bill that would require the FAA to develop formal rulemaking before implementing the policy. The groups say hundreds of letters and emails have been sent so far.

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