FAA Issues Revised Sleep Apnea Policy

Revised guidance takes effect on March 2.

Sleep Apnea
Sleep ApneaFlying

Facing a backlash from pilots and aviation lobbying groups, the FAA has reversed course on a controversial medical policy that would have grounded overweight pilots until they underwent screening for obstructive sleep apnea.

Under the revised policy pilots will be allowed to keep flying while being evaluated for the disorder.

The FAA's new medical screening guidance follows more than a year of lobbying efforts on behalf of several aviation organizations, including AOPA, the National Business Aviation Association and the Experimental Aircraft Association. As first revealed by the agency late in 2013, the FAA's chief federal air surgeon sought to require that any pilot with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater, and a neck size of 17 inches or greater, undergo obstructive sleep apnea screening prior to receiving a medical certificate.

The new policy, which takes effect March 2, will require overweight pilots who are diagnosed with OSA to receive treatment to continue flying.

AOPA President Mark Baker and NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen both applauded the policy change, calling the revised guidelines a "common-sense approach" to medical certification.

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