FAA Softens Considerably their Apnea Policy

The FAA – Federal Aviation Administration went backward considerably on its sleep apnea proposal. The controversial plan to require sleep clinic testing based on body mass index appears to be dead. Last year, Federal Air Surgeon Fred Tilton announced, without consultation with aviation groups or the doctors that do flight medicals, that any pilot with a BMI greater than 40 would have his/her certificate suspended and be automatically required to be assessed by an accredited sleep specialist to prove that he or she did not have obstructive sleep apnea.

Under the proposed new rules, assessment may still be required, but the certificate will remain valid until it’s completed, this represents an important step in the right direction over the policy announced last year,”

Under the new policy AMEs have been asking questions about sleep apnea since 2009 and under the new policy if they think a pilot needs further assessment, it can be done by a regular doctor and not a sleep specialist as previously required. It will be up to the second-opinion doctor whether an expensive sleep test ($3,000 or more) is required. The issue prompted bills in both the House and Senate to require the FAA to go through the rulemaking process to enact its previous proposal.

Capt. Ivan

Photo:  AOPA

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