AMEs object to FAA Sleep Apnea Policy

The Civil Aviation Medical Association (CAMA), the professional organization for Aviation Medical Examiners who provide medical certification exams to the nation’s pilots, has joined the consensus against the FAA’s new sleep apnea policy.

In a letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, CAMA objected to the new FAA policy for a variety of professional reasons, most notably the lack of scientific evidence that links sleep apnea to heightened risk for aviation safety.

“The FAA is not tasked to provide long-term prognoses, but rather to determine the likelihood of pilot incapacitation for the duration of the medical certificate,” said Dr. Mark Eidson, CAMA president. “No scientific body or evidence has demonstrated that undiagnosed obesity or OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) has compromised aviation safety … The proposed policy would greatly burden a critically taxed medical certification system already suffering from very significant processing delays.”

In reply, FAA officials sent a memo to AMEs stating that the new sleep apnea screening had not been implemented and physicians should not include BMI calculations as part of the medical examinations. The agency also noted that a formal notice would be issued prior to the policy’s implementation.

CAMA’s position is similar to that of EAA’s Aeromedical Advisory Council, which earlier joined EAA Chairman Jack Pelton in objecting to FAA’s policy. The policy change would require AMEs to order sleep apnea testing and evaluation for overweight pilots who have a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 40 and a neck size greater than 17 inches before approving a medical certificate application.

EAA officials said they remain “very concerned about this FAA policy change and will continue to oppose this over-reaching FAA change in the medical certification process.”

Congress has also moved to counter the FAA proposal, with a bill in the House of Representatives that would require a full rulemaking and public comment process on any such policy change by the FAA. That bill passed the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last week and is headed to the full House for a vote. EAA is urging its members and other aviators to encourage congressional co-sponsors through the Rally Congress website.

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Comments

  1. When the doctors that the FAA charges with implementing its medical policies think that those policies go too far then it is time to take note. One would think they would be happy to do what ever the FAA asks, but when they say this is too much then it is clear that the FAA has gotten out of control. In these days of out of control budgets it looks like the FAA AeroMedical division needs some extreme trimming to bring it back under control. First thing to do is abolish the 3rd class medical and then take a long hard look at the requirements that remanin for the 2nd and 1st class.

  2. Self (only) “medical certification” to drive and to fly is the only correct solution for non commercial operations in a free country.

    • The real problem is in the FAA’s way of looking at things. They believe that they have a “responsibility” to the public to protect them from falling airplanes no matter what the cost and no matter how unrealistic the risk is because just one case of a fat guy having his first heart attack and hurting some “innocent” person on the ground then they are going to look bad since they didn’t do something about it to prevent it somehow in the first place. People get hurt on the highways when people have health issues but you don’t see requirements for full blown physicals of every driver in the country. It’s easy you see to pick on the “rich” pilots out there that really don’t “need” to be flying over the people.

  3. Sound thinking, get the FAA out of long term health prognostication, they can not offer valid predictions for the next year!

    Now, what about cholesterol. The FAA uses this as a predictor of near death. They are wrong. Lord help those with a neck size over 17 inches!! Virtually every college football player would miss this hurdle, specimens of fine physical fitness.

    • I have a 19″ neck size and am healthy except for that. Of course, I exercise, and lift weights, so that may be part of the reason, but don’t try to make sense to any of those FAA medical bureaucrats. By the way, everyone, contact your congressman and ask them to support and co-sponsor the new legislation being written on the drivers license instead of the 3rd class medical. In case you haven’t seen it: “The General Aviation Pilot Protection Act of 2013, co-sponsored by Reps. Bill Flores (R-TX), Mike Pompeo (R-KS), Collin Peterson (D-MN), and Richard Hanna (R-NY), would require pilots who fly recreationally to hold a valid driver’s license in lieu of a third-class medical certificate and operate under specific limitations. (link to Rep Rokita Medical bill.pdf)” Go to EAA.org and read about it there.

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