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NBAA Questioning FAA’s Apparent New Sleep Apnea-Detection Focus

Nov. 20, 2013

An announcement from the FAA’s Federal Air Surgeon outlining planned aeromedical guidelines on sleep apnea has raised alarm with NBAA and other aviation industry organizations.

In a recent FAA newsletter, Federal Air Surgeon Dr. Frederick Tilton reports the FAA “will be releasing shortly” a policy requiring that pilots with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater, and a neck size of 17 inches or greater, undergo screening for sleep apnea prior to receiving a medical certificate. Tilton’s newsletter commentary adds that, over time, additional pilots would be required to submit to OSA screening, as the agency lowers the BMI threshold.

Review Dr. Tilton’s editorial "New Obstructive Sleep Apnea Policy."

Although no formal guidance has been issued at this time, Doug Carr, NBAA vice president for safety, security, operations & regulation, expressed concern that the agency has apparently considered a significant policy shift without first consulting with industry stakeholders, including NBAA and other general aviation advocacy groups.

“We’re concerned that it appears the FAA intends to roll out a policy of this magnitude without first taking input from the very people in the aviation community who stand to be impacted by it.” Carr said. “Proposals that have the effect of a rule or regulation with significant industry impact should be subject to commentary from affected parties, as well as analysis of their data-driven justification, costs, benefits and other important criteria. The FAA should suspend any plans for implementing this policy at least until the industry has a better understanding of the agency’s intent and data supporting this direction.”

While NBAA continues to investigate the issue, Carr encouraged Members to contact him directly at dcarr@nbaa.org to share any questions or concerns they have about the potential policy change.

“We are gathering additional information about the FAA’s efforts to address OSA and will share that information with Members once it is available,” he added.