Senate Introduces Sleep Apnea Bill

** Photo by Rachel Tayse/Flickr**

The U.S. Senate has introduced a bill aimed at opening a dialog with pilots and the FAA before the agency adopts a controversial sleep apnea testing policy. The measure would compel the FAA to abide by the normal rulemaking process before implementing any policy change related to pilot medicals and sleep apnea screening.

Introduced by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and co-sponsored by Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), the bill's language mirrors that of a measure introduced in November by House aviation subcommittee chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) and ranking member Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), which is now awaiting a vote by the full House.

The legislation comes in response to the FAA air medical branch's new policy that would require pilots with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater to undergo sleep apnea testing. The change drew broad condemnation from the general aviation community, which has complained about the high cost of testing and a lack of data pointing to any safety benefit.

The FAA said it will not implement the policy change pending action on the issue in Congress.

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