FAA drafts sleep apnea guidelines

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

FREDERICK, Md. – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has drafted new guidelines for diagnosing sleep apnea among pilots, according to news reports. Under the new guidelines, announced April 1, pilots will not be disqualified from flying based on body mass index alone. The change came about after opposition from pilots, lawmakers and physicians forced the FAA to put on hold its plans to start testing pilots for sleep apnea in January. The House of Representatives passed a bill in February that would require the FAA to go through a rulemaking process before implementing a sleep policy. The agency had said that was unnecessary because untreated sleep apnea already disqualifies a pilot from flying. Under the draft guidelines, aviation medical examiners (AMEs) will continue to ask questions related to sleep apnea, as they have done since 2009. If a pilot is referred for evaluation for sleep apnea, the examiner will issue a regular medical certificate and the pilot will have 90 days to get an assessment. The pilot can keep flying during that 90-day period and the assessment can be conducted by any physician, not just a sleep specialist, and a sleep test is not required if the doctor feels it is unnecessary.