Medical Issues

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Medical Issues

As every pilot knows, two licenses are required to fly: a pilot certificate and a medical certificate. Ensuring that Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) medical certification is valid and will be renewed is of paramount concern to all professional pilots and flight department managers.


Fitness for Duty Policy Template

Fitness for duty, one of NBAA's Foundations for Safety, is integral to any aviation team's mission success. NBAA's Safety Committee has drafted this template that companies can use to develop their internal fitness for duty policy.


NBAA Recommends Immunization Review Before International Travel
Sept. 4, 2018
With the World Health Organization recently updating its recommendations for polio vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance for travelers bound for eight destinations, including Kenya, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea. Regardless of the international destination, NBAA recommends that all operators and their passengers review their immunization records before departure. Review the immunization guidance.

FAA Publishes New Settlement Policy for First-Time Violators of Drug, Alcohol Testing Requirements
Aug. 2, 2018
The FAA recently published a new settlement policy regarding first-time violators of certain drug and alcohol testing requirements. The new policy applies only to commercial pilots, and is purported to allow pilots to focus on treatment through the Human Intervention Motivation Study (drug and alcohol recovery assistance) rather than focusing on the FAA’s enforcement proceeding against the pilot. Learn More.

Tips for Flight Crews on Using Supplemental Oxygen at Altitude
Aug. 14, 2017
Today's business aircraft can easily carry pilots and passengers to altitudes where the FAA recommends the use of supplemental oxygen. Although not required below 12,500 feet MSL, the FAA recommends oxygen when flying unpressurized above 10,000 feet MSL during the day and above 5,000 feet MSL at night. Learn more in the latest issue of Business Aviation Insider.

Podcast: Supplemental Oxygen: It’s Not About Altitude, But How You Feel
May 22, 2017
Do you spent a lot of time flying unpressurized aircraft at high altitudes? If so, it’s important to monitor your oxygen levels. Alex Gertsen, NBAA’s director of airports and ground infrastructure, is also a pilot, and said he uses supplemental oxygen in flight and counts on a pulse oximeter to measure his oxygen levels. “It’s your health, your life on the line when you’re at those high-altitude levels,” Gertsen said. Dr. Brent Blue, a senior aviation medical examiner, agreed, “It’s not about the altitude, it’s about how you feel. You can’t use too much oxygen.” Look or an article on the topic in the July/August issue of Business Aviation Insider magazine and listen to this week’s NBAA Flight Plan podcast.

Podcast: Three Takeaways From Recent Mental-Fitness Recommendations for Pilots
June 20, 2016
The FAA has released recommendations from an aviation rulemaking committee (ARC) tasked with providing the agency input on how to assess and improve flight crew members' mental fitness for duty. The committee's recommendations include enhanced aviation medical examiner (AME) training and pilot assistance programs designed to help pilots who are experiencing emotional issues that could affect flight deck performance. "There has to be trust between the pilot; the FAA, and its designated representative, the AME; and the pilot's employer," said Dr. Quay Snyder, ARC member and president and CEO of the Aviation Medicine Advisory Service. Learn more about the recommendations.

Flight Departments Urged to Set Up Pilot Fitness-for-Duty Programs
April 20, 2016
A leading expert on aeromedicine recommends that flight departments institute formal "fitness for duty" (FFD) programs to evaluate experienced pilots whose flying skills seem to be deteriorating. An established FFD program, with clearly defined rules, can increase confidence that problems will be dealt with fairly, making pilots and their colleagues more likely to step forward to report concerns, said Dr. Quay Snyder, president and CEO of the Aviation Medicine Advisory Service, an aeromedical consulting firm based in Centennial, CO. Snyder will discuss FFD programs on May 5 at the Business Aviation Safety Summit. Read more about FFD programs.

Managing Stress Key to Decreasing Risk of Illness in Flight Attendants
April 7, 2016
Flight attendants face a substantially higher risk of physical and psychological illness, due to stress. "Many physical health concerns experienced by flight attendants are indirectly related to stress," said Dr. Ralph E. Carson, who has a background in health science and medicine. "Inflammation is often the 'glue' between stress and physical health problems." Carson will discuss this issue at NBAA's Flight Attendants/Flight Technicians Conference, June 21 to 23 in Delray Beach, FL. Learn more.

Proposals Could Lead to Changes in DOT Drug-Testing Programs
May 28, 2015
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently published two notices of proposed rulemaking, which may affect Department of Transportation (DOT) drug and alcohol testing programs. The proposed rules aim to revise the current drug-testing program for federal employees, including adding tests for certain narcotics, requiring facility managers to renew credentials and creating guidelines for oral-fluid testing. Safety-sensitive employees – including pilots, mechanics, dispatchers and flight attendants &ndash are all subject to DOT drug and alcohol testing. NBAA is monitoring the proposal, and will keep Members informed of any developments, noted Brian Koester, NBAA project manager, operations. Learn more about the proposed drug-testing program changes.

Tip Before Flying to These Three Places: Talk With A Doctor
March 2, 2015
NBAA Members fly all over the world, and it's important to remember that medical safety is as important as personal safety, advised England-based Dr. Michael Braida, medical director for MedAire in Europe. Braida said the Democratic Republic of Congo, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean offer some of the most substantial health risks to operators. Learn more in this week's NBAA Flight Plan podcast.
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NBAA Concerns Reflected In FAA's New Sleep Apnea Policy
Jan. 26, 2015
NBAA said that new guidance from the FAA on its once-controversial plan for testing pilots for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) now reflects a practical approach from the association and other general aviation groups for addressing the condition, without compromising flight safety. "This new guidance, developed with NBAA's input, reflects a pivot for the agency, which combines common sense with clinical discipline," said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. Particularly noteworthy for Bolen is that, under the new guidance, pilots will be able to continue to fly while being evaluated for OSA. The FAA's new screening directive comes in the wake of plans that the agency would consider requiring any pilot with a body mass index of 40 or greater, and a neck size of 17 inches or greater, to undergo OSA screening prior to receiving a medical certificate. Read more about the FAA's new sleep apnea policy.

At Year's End, Outlook is Good for Third-Class Medical Overhaul Bill in 2015
Dec. 16, 2014
As the year draws to a close, support continues to build for legislation to remove the third-class medical requirement for operating a variety of general aviation aircraft. While the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act was not reported for floor action during the current legislative session, Dick Doubrava, NBAA vice president, government affairs, noted the strong level of bipartisan support adds momentum for these issues to be considered by the incoming 114th Congress. Read more about the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act.

NBAA Welcomes Senators' Support for Reform of Third-Class Medical Process
Sept. 8, 2014
Eleven U.S. senators recently added their voices to the growing chorus of lawmakers and industry stakeholders who are urging the U.S. Department of Transportation to act swiftly upon guidelines proposed by the FAA to reform the medical certification process for many general aviation pilots. "As cosponsors of S.2103, the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act, we urge the administration to carry out an expedited review of the FAA's notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to modernize third-class medical requirements for small-aircraft pilots, based on the lessons learned from the highly-successful sport pilot rule," reads the Sept. 2 letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Shaun Donovan, director of the Office of Management and Budget. "We urge that the review be completed within one month so that the proposal can be released for public comments as soon as possible." Read the full letter.

NBAA, Others Call for Action on Third-Class Medical Exemption
Aug. 25, 2014
NBAA recently joined with other aviation stakeholders in calling for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to expedite its review of an FAA notice of proposed rulemaking to reform the third-class medical certification requirement. "The FAA's medical certification system has evolved into an onerous and costly one which has questionable, if any, benefit to general aviation pilots," read the Aug. 15 letter, which was sent to DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx and signed by leaders of seven aviation groups, including NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. "Conservative estimates indicate that medical certification reform would result in an annual savings of more than $1 million to the FAA." Read the full letter sent to Foxx.

Five Questions for NBAA's Doug Carr on the Status of FAA's Sleep-Apnea Testing Proposal
June 23, 2014
At the beginning of 2014, there was much concern in the aviation community and on Capitol Hill regarding the FAA's controversial proposal to require certain pilots to undergo testing for Obstructive Sleep Apnea before receiving a medical certificate. What's the status of this issue, and how has NBAA been involved in the matter? Doug Carr, NBAA's vice president of regulatory and international affairs, recently provided an update on the Association's efforts on behalf of pilots who might have faced at least the temporary loss of their medical certification based on the proposed requirement. Listen to this week's NBAA Flight Plan podcast for more on the sleep-apnea testing issue.

In Meeting, Bolen Thanks Rep. LoBiondo for Work to Bring Transparency to FAA's Sleep Apnea Screening Proposal
Jan. 10, 2014
The ongoing effort to bring greater transparency to a controversial FAA measure requiring mandatory screening of some pilots for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) was a key topic of conversation in a Jan. 8 meeting between Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-2-NJ) and NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen in the congressman's Capitol Hill office. LoBiondo sponsored H.R.3578, a bipartisan measure requiring the FAA to follow established rulemaking processes before implementing any OSA screening requirement, including a means for industry stakeholders to provide input on the proposal. "With Congress returning to Washington for the start of a new session last week, one of my first priorities was to express the business aviation community's appreciation for the efforts by Congressman LoBiondo and his colleagues to ensure that industry input is considered in any new OSA-screening requirement," Bolen said following the meeting. Read more.

At Aviation Hearing, Bolen Reiterates Concerns Over Sleep Apnea Changes, EU-ETS
Dec. 12, 2013
A House committee hearing last week focused on aviation planning also provided a welcome opportunity for NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen to acknowledge the need for continuing congressional engagement on two issues with serious potential ramifications for the general aviation community. In written testimony submitted for before the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure Committee's Aviation Subcommittee on "The State of American Aviation," Bolen pointed to the industry's alarm over the FAA's new plan to mandate obstructive sleep apnea screening for some pilots prior to receiving a medical certificate. He also highlighted continuing concerns over the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU-ETS). Read more about Bolen's testimony.

NBAA Welcomes Key House Committee Passage of Legislation Addressing FAA Sleep Apnea Rule
Dec. 4, 2013
NBAA thanked a key U.S. House of Representatives panel for approving legislation that would compel the FAA to follow established rulemaking processes before implementing a new requirement that some pilots be screened for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) prior to receiving a medical certificate. The legislation, H.R. 3578, was introduced on Nov. 21 by Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-2-NJ), chairman of the Transportation Committee's Aviation Subcommittee. The bill responds to a new policy, first reported in a November 2013 FAA newsletter, that the agency would soon begin subjecting pilots with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater to OSA screening. Review NBAA's letter to Rep. LoBiondo.

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. 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. 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. Read more about the apparent sleep apnea policy shift.

NBAA: Cold, Flu Season a Reminder for Drug-Impairment Awareness
Nov. 1, 2013
As cold and flu season progresses, an open letter to pilots, stressing the contribution of common medications to some fatal loss-of-control aviation accidents, is getting renewed attention. First distributed over the summer, the letter was signed by FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen and the heads of 10 additional aviation industry groups. Among the conclusions of the Loss-Of-Control Working Group of the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee was a finding that "medications currently prohibited by the FAA are found to be present as causal or contributory in approximately 12 percent of fatal general aviation accidents... we are concerned that pilots might not be aware of the ubiquitous presence of sedating antihistamines in many over-the-counter treatments for common allergies, coughs and colds and in sleep aids." Read more about drug impairment awareness.

Keeping an Eye on Laser Vision Surgery
Oct. 28, 2013
If you are a pilot who needs vision correction to fly, consider yourself in the majority. More than half – 55 percent – of U.S. civilian pilots need some sort of correction to meet the FAA's vision requirements. That is why many pilots opt for corneal refractive surgery to correct their vision. But before making a decision on procedures like Lasik surgery, or one of its variants, there are a number of issues to consider. For instance, in terms of being qualified to fly after surgery, Lasik may not provide enough vision correction to make it possible to fly without corrective lenses. Listen to this week's NBAA Flight Plan podcast for more on Lasik and its possible impact on pilots.

NBAA, Others Join With FAA to Warn Pilots of Potential Impairment From Common Medications
July 18, 2013
NBAA joined with other aviation groups and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in an open letter to pilots that includes guidelines they should use to determine whether they are fit to fly. "Industry and government both share concerns that some general aviation pilots are taking impairing medications while operating aircraft without fully understanding their adverse effects," read the letter signed by FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen, and leaders of 10 other aviation groups. Get tips on how pilots can combat potential problems with medication.

Make Sure You're Protecting Your Medical Certification
August 26, 2010
A recent webinar hosted by NBAA for its Members enlightened attendees about the many issues and concerns surrounding pilot health and safety and how to maintain compliance with FAA regulations to ensure continuing medical certification. Learn more.

FAA Lengthens Validity of Medical Certificates
July 24, 2008
The FAA amended its medical certification rules to extend the validity of certain medical certificate privileges. Airmen under the age of 40 who hold a first-class medical are now permitted to conduct both domestic and international operations requiring a first-class medical for 12 calendar months. Airmen under the age of 40 who hold a first-, second- or third-class medical are now permitted to conduct an operation requiring a third-class medical for 60 calendar months.
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