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AME Group Objects to FAA Sleep Apnea Policy

FAA temporarily halts implementation of new requirements

December 10, 2013 - The Civil Aviation Medical Association (CAMA), the professional organization for Aviation Medical Examiners who provide medical certification exams to the nation's pilots, has joined the consensus against the FAA's new sleep apnea policy announced last month.

In a letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, CAMA objected to the new FAA policy for a variety of professional reasons, most notably the lack of scientific evidence that links sleep apnea to heightened risk for aviation safety.

"The FAA is not tasked to provide long-term prognoses, but rather to determine the likelihood of pilot incapacitation for the duration of the medical certificate," said Dr. Mark Eidson, CAMA president. "No scientific body or evidence has demonstrated that undiagnosed obesity or OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) has compromised aviation safety ... The proposed policy would greatly burden a critically taxed medical certification system already suffering from very significant processing delays."

CAMA's position is similar to that of EAA's Aeromedical Advisory Council, which earlier joined EAA chairman Jack Pelton in objecting to FAA's policy. The policy change would require AMEs to order sleep apnea testing and evaluation for pilots who are above certain risk thresholds - prior to approving any medical certificate application. EAA remains very concerned about this FAA policy change and will continue to oppose this over-reaching FAA change in the medical certification process.

Congress has also moved to counter the FAA proposal, with a bill in the House of Representatives that would require a full rulemaking and public comment process on any such policy change by the FAA. That bill passed the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last week and is headed to the full House for a vote. EAA is urging its members and other aviators to encourage congressional co-sponsors through the Rally Congress website.

UPDATE: Late Monday, the FAA sent a memo to AMEs stating that the new OSA screening had not been implemented and physicians should not include body mass index calculations as part of the airman medical examinations. The agency also noted that a formal notice would be issued prior to the policy's implementation.

This announcement does not change the stance opposing the policy by EAA, its Aeromedical Advisory Council, and CAMA. We encourage EAA members to still use the Rally Congress website to support additional co-sponsors for the House legislation.

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