FAA Revises Sleep Apnea Policy — Again

How will latest proposal affect you?

Sleep Apnea Mask Rachel Tayse

Sleep Apnea Mask Rachel Tayse

** Photo by Rachel Tayse/Flickr**

The FAA has made a small but significant change to its controversial sleep apnea policy that has quelled some of the anger by overweight pilots over the proposal — but certainly not all of it.

According to a draft revision of the policy, pilots who are identified by an aviation medical examiner as being at risk for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) would be granted a medical certificate on the spot but would have to undergo OSA screening by a qualified sleep apnea doctor within 90 days. Under the original FAA policy proposed last November, any pilot with a body mass index over 40 would have been denied a medical certificate until successfully completing the OSA screening.

Aviation industry leaders welcomed the proposed change, while signaling they still supported Congressional legislation related to the FAA policy.

"While we are still reviewing the documents circulated by the FAA, we are encouraged by the agency's decision to have a meaningful exchange about its OSA-screening proposal," said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. "As we have stated all along, one of our chief concerns when the initial plan was introduced was that the FAA appeared ready to move to full implementation without the benefit of input from the people in the aviation community who would be most impacted by the change."

Under the draft policy revision, overweight pilots would be issued a medical certificate — assuming they were otherwise qualified — on the condition that they undergo OSA screening "by any qualifying doctor, including their primary care physician, following common evaluation protocols."

"While we will continue to support Congressional efforts to bring greater transparency to this process, we believe the FAA's decision to discuss draft revisions to its OSA proposal marks a good first step in the right direction toward a constructive dialogue about the plan," Bolen said.

Congress is moving ahead with legislation that would require the FAA to follow its normal rulemaking process before implementing any changes to the airman medical with regard to sleep apnea and overweight pilots.

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