The threat of “extensive and intrusive” sleep testing for pilots with body mass indexes (BMIs) of 40 or greater is off the table in the latest draft guidelines from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The new preliminary (draft) guidelines are seen as a victory for private pilots, with a representative from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) calling the draft guidelines a “significant step in the right direction over the policy announced last year,” Jim Coon, AOPA senior vice president of government affairs, adds in the association’s Web site that the “FAA has heard the concerns of AOPA members and responded with a more appropriate approach that will keep pilots flying.”
According to the AOPA, the new guidelines for dealing with potential cases of sleep apnea among pilots have been sent to key members of the medical community for review. Under the draft guidelines announced April 1, pilots will not be disqualified based on body mass index (BMI) alone, and pilots will be issued medical certificates even if they are referred for additional evaluation.
The new draft guidelines came after AOPA and others objected to the sudden announcement late last year that the FAA would require expensive and intrusive testing of all pilots with a BMI of 40 or greater.
AOPA reporter Elizabeth A. Tennyson writes that, “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. This is a significant change from the earlier policy that would have required testing by a sleep specialist, costing pilots thousands of hours and millions of dollars.”