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Thread: New sleep apnea policy to take effect

  1. #1
    Member Float Pilot's Avatar
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    Default New sleep apnea policy to take effect

    New sleep apnea policy to take effect
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    January 23, 2015

    By Elizabeth A Tennyson

    Sleep apneaA new FAA policy on obstructive sleep apnea that addresses many of the concerns raised by AOPA is scheduled to take effect March 2.

    The new policy closely follows draft guidelines released in April 2014 and will not disqualify pilots from receiving a medical certificate based solely on body mass index (BMI). Pilots believed to be at significant risk for the condition will receive a regular medical certificate and be required to undergo a follow-up assessment. Those who are diagnosed with the condition must receive treatment to continue flying.
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    The issue of sleep apnea came to the forefront in 2013 when the federal air surgeon described a planned policy change in an FAA medical bulletin. Under the original FAA proposal, pilots with a BMI of 40 or greater would have been required to undergo testing for sleep apnea by a board certified sleep specialist. The FAA said it planned to expand the policy to include all pilots with a BMI of 30 or greater.

    But AOPA strongly objected to requiring thousands of pilots to go through expensive and intrusive testing based exclusively on BMI. The association and other aviation groups turned to Congress for assistance, and the House passed a bill that would have required the FAA to go through the rulemaking process before introducing any new policy on sleep disorders.

    In December 2013, the FAA stepped back from its initial policy announcement and began working with stakeholders, including AOPA, to address concerns about sleep apnea.

    Under the new policy, announced Jan. 23, the risk of obstructive sleep apnea will be determined through an integrated assessment of the pilot’s medical history and symptoms as well as physical and clinical findings. Aviation medical examiners will be provided with guidance from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine to assist them in determining each pilot’s risk.

    Pilots who are determined to be at significant risk will receive a regular medical certificate and undergo a sleep apnea evaluation. That evaluation can be performed by any physician, including the AME, and does not require a sleep study unless the physician believes one is needed. Pilots will have 90 days to complete the evaluation and forward the results to the FAA’s Aerospace Medical Certification Division (AMCD), the regional flight surgeon’s office, or the AME. Thirty-day extensions will be available to pilots who need more time to complete the process.

    If the evaluation does not lead to a diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea, no further action will be required. Pilots who are diagnosed with the condition can send documentation of effective treatment to the AMCD or regional flight surgeon to arrange for a special issuance medical certificate to replace the regular medical certificate issued previously.

    “The effectiveness of the new policy will depend on how aviation medical examiners implement it,” said Rob Hackman, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. “We continue to be engaged in this issue and we encourage AOPA members to tell us about their experiences once the policy takes effect.”
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  2. #2

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    From the FAA press release:

    BMI alone will not disqualify a pilot or require an OSA evaluation. The risk for OSA will be determined by an integrated assessment of history, symptoms, and physical/clinical findings. OSA screening will only be done by the AME at the time of the physical examination using the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) guidance provided in the AME Guide.

    Well, that begs the question. What exactly are the guidelines from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine? The FAA is to provide those factors to the AMEs...what are those factors? How will they be implemented for use by the AMEs?

    unk

  3. #3

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    Answered my own question. From elsewhere on the FAA site they note, in part:'

    "Based on feedback from industry on the FAA’s draft guidance, the new guidance does not rely on BMI and allows a pilot to keep flying during evaluation and treatment. The FAA plans to publish the new guidance in the FAA Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners on March 2, 2015."

    So, beginning March 2 the new guidance must be used by the AME...and prior to March 2, we dont get to see what that guidance will be....Perhaps I am being a bit paranoid here, but this is the FAA we are dealing with, and they are professional at making GA pilots suffer. I am willing to be the "guidance" will be such that if your BMI is above 30, and you are alive, then a special sleep study is in your future. It is in all in the semantics, see it will not rely entirely upon BMI....

    unk

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    Member Float Pilot's Avatar
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    A local doctor told me last night that their Sleep Apnea clinic work had just caused a couple folks to receive letters from the State regarding their regular drivers licenses.
    That is what comrade O wanted with his fed-med scheme.
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    Member sayak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Float Pilot View Post
    A local doctor told me last night that their Sleep Apnea clinic work had just caused a couple folks to receive letters from the State regarding their regular drivers licenses.
    That is what comrade O wanted with his fed-med scheme.
    The chances of a driver falling a sleep at the wheel and killing a bunch of people is far greater than a pilot falling asleep at the stick and killing a bunch of people it would seem. This is scary stuff. Less likely for people to seek treatment for sleep apnea if they run the risk of losing a license or having to get frequent checkups.

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    In the long run I think the FAA is moving away from private flying and focusing more on commercial flying. I think the E-AB experimental aircraft category supports that. Hopefully soon the third class medical will be substantially or completely eliminated. I think they're unable to tame the herd and in reality they don't want to. The move toward small private plane freedom is afoot.

    Ask any CDL friends about sleep apnea. They're already in the thick of being sorted for testing. I'd expect commercial pilots to be treated the same way. Maybe the new sleep apnea policy is a tell of the coming third class reform policy. A guy can dream!

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