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.
Howard Ragsdale, senior vice president of business development for Denver-based Air Methods and this year’s winner of the Airbus Helicopters Golden Hour Award, has spent most of his aviation career in air medical operations. Along with Archie Gray, senior vice president of aviation services, he is one of two long-time employees of Air Methods to receive an HAI Salute to Excellence Award this year. The “Golden Hour,” of course, refers to the period of time after a person has been severely injured during which, if given medical care, he or she has the greatest chance of survival.
Safe Flight (Booth No. 2516) introduced its upgraded digital powerline detection system (DPDS) and provided an update about ongoing development of its icing conditions detector (ICD) at Heli-Expo 2014.
The DPDS adds a digital signal processor to Safe Flight’s previous analog system, allowing the detection of both 60Hz and 50Hz frequencies produced by power lines around the world. Safe Flight director of government and military sales Greg Hilewitz noted testing on an AS355 showed the DPDS detected a 22,000-volt line at more than one statute mile distant.
NBAA welcomed passage by the House of Representatives of H.R.3578, which compels the FAA to establish a rulemaking process before implementing any mandatory pilot-screening requirement for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) as a condition for getting a medical certificate. In November, the FAA announced a plan to begin requiring OSA screening for pilots with a body mass index of 40 or greater. “The business aviation community thanks lawmakers for passing this measure seeking a fully transparent process for any consideration of OSA screening,” said NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen.
U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.) have introduced legislation–S.1941–to require the FAA to follow the established rulemaking process as the agency tries to implement its obstructive sleep apnea screening rule. Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), an original cosponsor of the bill, is a member of the Senate general aviation caucus, along with Manchin and Inhofe.
Ever since two pilots fell asleep in the cockpit of a Bombardier CRJ operating as Go! Flight 1002 during a February 2008 flight from Honolulu to Hilo, Hawaii, the NTSB has urged the FAA to tackle the issue of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) among pilots. The captain of that aircraft was diagnosed with severe OSA after the flight.
Unpopular as his crusade may be, Federal Air Surgeon Fred Tilton is right to shine a spotlight on sleep apnea in the pilot community.
The FAA’s plan to implement a new policy requiring screening of pilots for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) has been put on hold, pending FAA consultation with industry stakeholders, according to GA lobby groups. FAA Federal Air Surgeon Fred Tilton had planned to have aviation medical examiners begin requiring pilots with a body mass index of 40 or more to undergo mandatory OSA screening, with plans eventually to lower that threshold to 30.
NBAA has criticized the FAA’s proposed action on sleep apnea among pilots. Doug Carr, the group’s vice president for safety, security and regulation, last week condemned as “unacceptable” FAA flight surgeon Dr Fred Tilton’s plan to require some pilots and air traffic controllers to undergo screening for obstructive sleep apnea. Opponents of the policy claim it is not supported by research.
The Civil Aviation Medical Association (CAMA), a group that represents aviation medical examiners (AMEs) in the U.S., is opposing the FAA’s newly proposed policy “that would task AMEs to determine body mass index (BMI) on all pilot applicants.” A BMI exceeding a set value–initially 40–would require evaluation by a board-certified sleep specialist to determine if the pilot applicant has obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).