FAA Rethinks Sleep Apnea Proposal for Pilots

 - April 3, 2014, 3:15 PM

Responding to concerns raised by NBAA, AOPA and other aviation groups, the FAA announced yesterday that it drafted new guidelines for dealing with pilots at risk of having obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Under the revised draft guidelines, pilots will no longer be disqualified on the basis of body mass index (BMI) alone–a reversal from the FAA’s initial proposal in November–and they will be issued medical certificates even if they are referred for additional evaluation. The draft guidelines have been sent to “key members of the medical community, who will have 14 days to review the proposed changes,” according to AOPA.

“While some details still need to be worked out, the draft guidelines developed by the FAA represent a significant step in the right direction over the policy announced last year,” said AOPA senior vice president of government affairs Jim Coon.

Under the draft guidelines, aviation medical examiners will continue to ask questions related to sleep apnea. If a pilot is referred for OSA evaluation, the examiner will issue a regular medical certificate and the pilot will have 90 days to get an assessment. The pilot can continue flying during the 90-day period and the assessment can be conducted by any physician, not just a sleep specialist, and a sleep test is not required if the doctor deems it unnecessary.

Untreated OSA has been, and will continue to be, a disqualifying condition, the FAA noted.