FAA to delay sleep apnea policy

The Experimental Aircraft Association is reporting that the chairman of its Aeromedical Advisory Council, Dr. Stephen Leonard, learned from the FAA Thursday, Dec. 19, that the agency will delay implementation of its new sleep apnea policy planned for next month in order to gather additional input from the aviation and medical community.

The new policy, which would mandate obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) testing and evaluation for pilots with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 and above, was scheduled to go into effect in January.

EAA and its aeromedical council, as well as other GA associations, objected strenuously to the policy, saying such testing was not FAA’s role, was of questionable medical use relating to pilot fitness, would cause additional financial burdens to pilots, and would overburden an already taxed special issuance system for medical certificates.

The FAA is now planning a meeting as early as next month with aviation and medical stakeholders, including general aviation organizations and aviation medical examiners (AMEs).

“We are pleased to see that the FAA will organize a meeting mid- to late January, get all concerned together, and try to hash out a compromise that will address FAA’s concerns about sleep apnea with all of our concerns about cost, intrusiveness, and adverse effect on the industry,” said Sean Elliott, EAA’s vice president of safety and advocacy. “EAA stands ready to assist and represent the aviation community in any way possible.”

Congress had also entered the debate, as a bill introduced in the House of Representatives earlier this month would have prevented the FAA from implementing the policy without a full rulemaking and public comment process. That bill has yet to be approved by the House.

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