A ‘baaad’ rule

WASHINGTON, D.C. — This could be the beginning of something big: The FAA has followed recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board and announced a program to check the weight of pilots in order to produce safer flight. The announced reason is that overweight people have a tendency to be more liable to suffer sleep apnea.

Officials at the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association says no data supports the NTSB/FAA claim that apnea is a problem in general aviation, adding there’s only been one known case of a commercial airliner flying with both pilots asleep.

Just imagine how much safer auto travel could become if drivers were weighed. Checking equestrians will produce safer travel, also. The poor horses will be protected. And in those cities where there are streetcars, weighing conductors could limit who could be given a job. Checking engineers on the railroads can certainly improve safety.

All this can severely restrict travel and people will have to walk wherever they wish to go. Of course, there is the danger here of getting bunions, but that can provide another big job for the federal rule makers at a later date, thus keeping government jobs secure.

How the FAA and NTSB can come up with ideas like this was brought to the forefront many years ago. Max Karant, an AOPA executive, asked an FAA official how the agency comes up with its ideas for regulations. The executive said: “We sit around our offices. Suddenly a voice is heard from above: “Make a rule,” it booms.”Yes,” we answer. “A good or bad rule?” “BAAAD,” says the voice.

That levity at the expense of the hard-working people as the FAA brings to mind another quip: Why doesn’t an FAA rule maker look out the window in the morning? Because if he did he would have nothing to do in the afternoon.

On top of all that, the NTSB made the recommendation to the FAA in 2009. Four years later, the FAA takes action. Isn’t it great that government moves so slow!


  1. Tom Beck says

    Hi Guys! I’m happily married to a nurse … for many years … and in her zeal to keep me healthy, she encouraged that I undergo a sleep test since she suspected that I may have sleep apnea.
    Bowing to her expertise, we had our doctor arrange for the test, which was performed in our local hospital … and required an overnight stay.
    The results came back in a few days and established the fact that I was “normal” … Cost (?) … over $8,000!!!
    This cost far surpassed the figure of between $1,000 and $3,000 which I had read about in a recent aviation article discussing the financial burden pilots may incur if they are required to undergo sleep apnea testing … pending the outcome of a new FAA ruling mandating it!
    Know that the test was performed early last year … before Obamacare became operative … so I was covered by my present Insurance policy … thank God!!

  2. Sarah A says

    In the past most of the NTSB recomendations were just passed over by the FAA and rightly so because many were just too far reaching and/or irrelevent. Now all of a sudden that seems to have changed and it could be the end of GA. Is this the result of some new CYA attitude within the burocracy ?

  3. Ron S says

    This must be bash FAA month. Flying Magazine (December 2013) had two articles about the unnecessary actions of FAA and more particularly NTSB. I’m beginning to think the government agencies don’t have enough “Real” work to do. Perhaps we need to thin the herd?

  4. Greg W says

    I am no fan of most actions of the FAA, however something seems to have changed there and not for the better. This program comes from a NTSB recommendation, four years after it was made. The FAA at one time took care of their own house, even if we didn’t like how they did it. The NTSB “recommended” the FAA responded “we’ll look into it” and may or may not have implement some form of NTSB’s request. Now NTSB says their is a problem with ECI cylinders and the FAA jumps. They not only rapidly implement a NPRM but expand it past what the NTSB requested. Dusting off this medical “concern” of sleep apnea, seems like trying to make someone at NTSB happy. The FAA long was placed under the control of NTSB but the people at FAA remembered that they were once “cabinet ” level themselves and took all the athority/autonomy that was allowed them. They now seem scared of there overseers in the NTSB.

    • Greg W says

      NTSB of course being the “teeth” for the Dept. of Transportation that was created over the FAA and others in 1967.

  5. Mooney says

    This comes as no surprise, the FAA has burdened private pilots with its third class medical for years. This burden has damaged GA. There is zero empirical justification for this medical certification, other than feel good for the FAA which is of no help to the pilot. And in fact, the FAA is likely sitting on evidence that shows no benefit to this regulatory intrusion. Why cannot this evidence be provided to the public? Rather than a senseless medical, which typically does not discover anything but rather repeats what is self reported, the real result is the preventing of upgrades to equipment or the purchase of new airplanes. Pilots in general, with sage advice from their trusted medical profession, will give up flying upon recommendation from thetrusted professional. However with the FAA’s death threat to aviators, there is a high disencive to upgrade as the only return on such an investment is to fly the aircraft. With the FAA’s burden without benefit placed on pilots, who in their right mind would spend $500,000 and then play the FAA’s version of Russian rulette?

    If the FAA wants to reduce accidents that are hurting GA, then focus on flight training rather than medical certification which has poroveb to be virtually valueless. Reduce the incident of departure and arrival stalls with their resulting fatal spins, improve the management of emergencies, require some real IMC flying with a II so each can see first hand what happens when you look around atthe pretty clouds or talk to someone in the back seat, and do this without an auto pilot and finally, a plane burning 10 GHH and carrying 5o gallons may not fly for the entire five hours. Do this training annually in lieu of the useless medical certification and watch the accident rate fall. Even over weight fold will become better pilots in the face of sleep apnea.

  6. Tom says

    The sleep apnea thing is just a start fellows and gals. The FAA is simply in the business of “protecting” themselves from the supposed threat of being on the hot seat trying to explain why they didn’t do something to prevent every accident that could ever possibly happen. The “liberal public outcry” for the government to do something, i.e. why wasn’t there a “rule” to prevent this from happening. It’s pervasive. The ELT was a good example of this and we are roped with it for a lifetime. You better believe that what they are after is trying to prevent the FIRST heart attack whereas right now they are supposedly vulnerable as there is no more of a chance for a Special Issuance pilot with past history of heart problems of crashing into something than an obese pilot that never had a heart attack. Neither case should be controlling on the freedoms we are having to give up each and every day to the liberalism “nanny state” mentality.

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