Industry Welcomes Sleep Apnea Rule Change


The FAA’s revised policy on sleep-apnea screening in pilot medical exams is much better than the original proposal, aviation advocates said on Monday. The new policy, set to take effect on March 2, will not disqualify pilots from receiving a medical certificate based solely on body mass index (BMI), AOPA said. “The new policy combines a focus on safety with a common-sense approach that lets pilots who haven’t been diagnosed with an illness keep flying,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. EAA also said in a statement the new proposal “has significant improvements” over the initial policy announced in November 2013. NBAA called the new plan “a practical approach.”

Under the original FAA proposal, pilots with a BMI of 40 or greater would have been required to undergo testing for sleep apnea by a board-certified sleep specialist, a process that can be time-consuming and expensive. The FAA said it planned to expand the policy to include all pilots with a BMI of 30 or greater. Under the new proposal, the risk of obstructive sleep apnea will be determined through an integrated assessment of the pilot’s medical history and symptoms as well as physical and clinical findings. The new policy allows more discretion to the AME, said Dr. Brent Blue this week, in an interview with AVweb. It also allows the use of much simpler and less expensive methods to determine if pilots have a sleep apnea problem or not. “It’s a pretty reasonable policy,” said Dr. Blue. When the initial policy proposal was released in late 2013, Dr. Blue referred to it as “one of the craziest things to come out of the FAA in years.”