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FAA: Don't Ignore Criticism of Sleep Apnea Policy

December 16, 2013 - EAA Chairman Jack Pelton and the EAA Aeromedical Advisory Council today sent separate letters to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, insisting the agency step back from planned changes to its obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) policy for airman medical certification. Despite widespread criticism from aviation medical experts, GA groups, and Congress, the FAA indicated that it would push ahead with its new policy early next year.

In a webinar held last Thursday, Federal Air Surgeon Dr. Fred Tilton announced that despite strong, negative feedback from many stakeholders, his office was moving with implementing the policy change this January. The change requires all applicants with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater to first be screened for OSA.

"In the past month you have reviewed comprehensive and well-reasoned criticism to this measure from representatives of virtually every community within aviation affected by this change," Pelton wrote to the FAA administrator. "By now it should be clear that this policy is flawed. Please suspend its introduction and initiate a formal rulemaking process."

The Aeromedical Council, meanwhile, said, "As physicians, aviation medical examiners, and pilots, we as members of the EAA Aeromedical Advisory Council wish to express our medical concerns and objections to the policy." The council noted the enormous logistical problems, expense for pilots, and burdens to the certification system such a policy would create.

With policy still set to launch next month, EAA continues to support a bill in Congress to require the policy to undergo a full rulemaking and public comment process. EAA encourages members and other aviators to ask for their lawmakers' support through EAA's Rally Congress website.

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