John King Hits FAA Medical Inflexibility

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The FAA is shooting itself in the foot with its inflexible attitude on medical disqualifications according to veteran instructor and aviation industry leader John King. King, who owns King Schools with his wife Martha, told AVweb in a podcast interview that he’ll be appealing the loss of his medical to an NTSB administrative law judge at a hearing that will likely be held this coming summer. That’s his last avenue of appeal after his appeal to the Federal Air Surgeon was rejected, he says, without due consideration. “The FAA’s inflexibility on this is not only bad for the individual they’re being inflexible toward but it’s also bad for the aviation community and it’s bad for the FAA themselves,” he said. “This has cost them a lot of goodwill with pilots.” That, in turn, has caused congressional action mandating things like third class medical reform, when all the agency has to do is follow its own guidelines in terms of fairness and risk-based analysis.

King said his journey through the FAA medical bureaucracy began when he fell back into bed one morning in 2014 and didn’t come around as fast as Martha thought he should. A trip to the hospital confirmed he’d had a seizure. Follow-up visits with two neurologists didn’t find any clinical cause for the seizure so his doctors wrote it off as a one-off event likely caused by too much coffee, too little sleep and the effects of a medication he was using to fight an infection. King resumed flying and when his medical lapsed he reported the incident and was disqualified. In the case of seizures, the FAA can disqualify for a minimum of two years if the seizure is considered “provoked” but if the seizure’s cause has not been determined the FAA requires a pilot to wait at least four years before reapplying. King maintains his seizure was caused by his physical state at the time and he’s no more likely to have another seizure than anyone else is. He’s had none since. And while he’s anxious to get his flying privileges restored, he’s more interested in having the FAA change its ways in medical disqualification cases like his. He said the agency needs to “become more flexible and follow some of these core values of treating people like individuals and making risk-based management decisions.”

Comments (9)

Good luck Mr. King. I hope you win your case. Would be nice if President Trump can extend his "cleaning out the swamp" to the FAA as well.

Posted by: matthew wagner | February 25, 2017 7:12 PM    Report this comment

The picture pretty much tells the story You can't just completely disregard your physical well-being and not expect some consequences.

Compare this situation with the story on Sean Tucker. He is fit and takes some time to look after his health. Check out where he is now.

Mr and Mrs King.. get some exercise, lose some weight, try it again.

Posted by: Ken Keen | February 26, 2017 7:44 AM    Report this comment

Ken,

You have wonderful advice. You will be pleased to know that since that picture was taken a number of years ago, Martha and I have each lost considerable weight and that we exercise regularly.

Posted by: John King | February 26, 2017 9:42 PM    Report this comment

Love you John and Martha. Best wishes.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | February 26, 2017 9:53 PM    Report this comment

One would think that after seeing the Bob Hoover medical debacle, not to mention being arrested on the tarmac at gunpoint, that such paragons of aviation rectitude as the Kings would be a little more circumspect in their interactions with the FAA, TSA, DHS, and other federal acronyms. Especially when it comes to something as serious as an idiopathic seizure.

Bureaucracies, for the most part, are staffed by dedicated professionals trying to do the right thing but they all have their share of incompetent, inflexible, and yes, mendacious malcontents. Those of us who are still flying after a half-century, learned long ago the difference between being "fit to fly" and "legal to fly". The two are only slightly related and require entirely different strategies.

I appreciate John's willingness to be our sacrificial lamb on the altar of Oke City intransigence. If anyone can effect change there, he's our best champion. But he should never have put himself in the position of having to prove a negative.

Posted by: Chip Davis | February 27, 2017 11:08 AM    Report this comment

"But he should never have put himself in the position of having to prove a negative."

-3. Section for the Physician to Complete with Instructions for the Physician
Section 2307(b)(2)(C)(i) of FESSA requires the checklist to include a section for the physician to complete, that instructs the physician to perform a clinical examination of the following:
- Head, face, neck, and scalp
- Anus (not including digital examination)
- Skin

Can someone please tell me, what are the disqualifying factors based on an examination of the scalp, anus and skin? Seriously, post the info if you've got it.

Chip, the moment you start the medical exam, the Doc is attempting to "prove a negative". He or she is not looking for the positive conditions that will allow you to keep flying, they are looking for negative conditions to prevent you from doing so.

As for the "lose some weight" comments, I've seen large pilots, I've seen skinny pilots. You may be the dapper pilot in the green flight suit, leather jacket and silk scarf tossed about the shoulder, 100lb soaking wet; but we all self assesse before each flight. Mr. King went to the Doctor, the doctor diagnosed the problem and Mr. King rectified the situation.

Attempting to be more circumspect in your interactions with the FAA, TSA, DHS et. al. is as futile as joisting at windmills. Be it idiopathic seizures, hiccups, 3.4 ounces of liquid in your carry on (not 3.5 mind you), or what-ever-the-hell they are inspecting your anus for; you can be sure that some "professional" will pull something out of his anus that no one could have logically planed for.

Good Luck.

Posted by: Robert Ore | February 27, 2017 3:07 PM    Report this comment

John King can get his "major" seizure issue resolved in 2 years when I can't get my "minor explainable seizure" issue resolved In 10 years. I had a 5 to 10 SECOND seizure in "one arm" that was explained because of "electrolyte imbalance" or Hypomagnesium" and/or Femal condition, HIGH Temperature in 2008. I've been fighting my denial ALONE since the event in 2008 because I haven't got the necessary help from an AME and I don't have deep pockets. I submitted 250 pages of medical records and 5 CD's test and received my 3rd denial letter without comment. I just want to fly sport pilot and use Basic Med,,,,,,NOT fly jets. I have demonstrated extreme and God given recovery from 2 "explainable" non events, a minor stroke that was never observed or resulted in any temporary or permanent disability and the minor seizure which showed up on a hospital monitor. My only source for help seemed to be AOPA legal and medical insurance policy and they turned me down, "SAYING THE FAA CAN DO WHAT THEY WANT". I'm going for two more test this week..

Posted by: Bob Unternaehrer | March 10, 2017 7:07 AM    Report this comment

I ADDED comments with out a name concerning seizures and FAA policies.. Bob Unternaehrer

Posted by: Bob Unternaehrer | March 10, 2017 7:11 AM    Report this comment

Congratulations Mr King. Unfortunately for the rest of us mere mortals who cannot garner overwhelming public support and publicity such an outcome is extremely unlikely. We suffer at the whim of faceless bureaucrats accountable to no one, who fully understand that is far, far easier to just say no than any other option. No means power. No means authority. and no is the answer the rest of us get.

The big players in aviation, those who carry great influence with the FAA are the airlines, and the goal of the airline industry is to eliminate General Aviation, one pilot at a time if necessary. They are succeeding, GA is dying quickly, and we seem powerless to alter the outcome

Posted by: Mark Alderson | March 10, 2017 3:55 PM    Report this comment

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