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House Addresses FAA Sleep Apnea Policy

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The U.S. House of Representatives has created a bill that would require the FAA to open a public comment period and apply normal rulemaking procedures before imposing new policy regarding pilot girth, medical testing, and sleep apnea. AOPA and EAA reacted to the announced policy with strongly worded letters “demanding” that it be suspended. They argued that the policy addresses a problem that exceeds the Federal Flight Surgeon’s mandate, could add a financial burden to the pilot community, and hasn’t been proven to exist. AOPA Thursday expressed its support for the House’s legislation and added some choice words.

AOPA president Mark Baker said, “The policy change is arbitrary and capricious and doesn’t make sense given the data.” AOPA says that a review of ten years worth of general aviation accident data “found no cases in which sleep apnea was a causal or contributing factor.” The policy itself specifies that pilots or controllers with a body mass index of 40 or greater be automatically referred to a medical specialist. AOPA argues that the policy will add to a 55,000-case backlog of special issuance medicals and collectively cost pilots anywhere from $99 million to $347 million in new medical fees. As written, the House legislation ensures that any new or revised requirement be adopted “pursuant to rulemaking proceeding.” Each sponsoring member of the House is a member of the General Aviation Caucus.

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