WASHINGTON, D.C. — Officials at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) say they welcome a step taken by the FAA to open a dialogue with the aviation industry about the agency’s pilot-screening proposal for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
The FAA recently circulated draft revisions of its proposal as a mechanism to engage industry stakeholders on the controversial policy, which was introduced last November, according to NBAA officials.
“While we are still reviewing the documents circulated by the FAA, we are encouraged by the agency’s decision to have a meaningful exchange about its OSA-screening proposal,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “As we have stated all along, one of our chief concerns when the initial plan was introduced was that the FAA appeared ready to move to full implementation without the benefit of industry input from the people in the aviation community who would be most impacted by the change.”
After an initial review of the FAA’s draft revisions, Bolen noted that the agency is apparently considering a change to one aspect of its policy, which would have denied a medical certificate to any pilot identified by an aviation medical examiner (AME) as being at risk for sleep apnea based on the pilot’s body-mass index (BMI). As part of that plan, pilots would have received their medical certificate only after undergoing OSA evaluation and treatment by a sleep specialist, at significant cost to the pilot.
Under the draft policy revision, however, at-risk pilots would be issued a medical certificate (assuming they were otherwise qualified) on the condition that they undergo OSA screening within 90 days by any qualifying doctor, including their primary care physician, following common evaluation protocols.
“While we will continue to support congressional efforts to bring greater transparency to this process, we believe the FAA’s decision to discuss draft revisions to its OSA proposal marks a good first step in the right direction toward a constructive dialogue about the plan,” Bolen added.
In the time since the FAA announced its OSA-screening plan, NBAA and other groups have continually worked to bring attention to the policy, and to prompt industry mobilization on the issue.
Most recently, NBAA joined with other aviation groups in a coalition calling for swift passage of U.S. Senate legislation to bring transparency to any FAA policy decision regarding sleep apnea.
Last December, in testimony provided for a House aviation subcommittee hearing, Bolen expressed his continuing concern about implementation of an OSA-screening requirement without first seeking comment from aviation stakeholders.
The hearing followed a letter Bolen sent to committee members detailing NBAA’s concerns over the agency’s attempt to implement its OSA-screening rule.