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EAA Urges Support for Bill on Sleep Apnea Policy

December 4, 2013 - EAA urges members to contact their congressional representatives and express support for a bipartisan bill that would force the FAA to subject its new draconian sleep apnea policy to a formal rulemaking and public comment process.

The legislation (H.R. 3578) has been approved by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and is now headed for the full House. EAA and other GA organizations support this bill and are asking their members to urge their representatives to join as co-sponsors.

The FAA's new policy, introduced in November, would require any airman applying for a medical certificate with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater and a neck size of 17 inches or greater to be evaluated by a sleep specialist and, if diagnosed with a disorder, receive any treatment deemed necessary prior to receiving certification. FAA's federal air surgeon, Dr. Fred Tilton, stated that "once we have appropriately dealt with every airman examinee who has a BMI of 40 or greater, we will gradually expand the testing pool by going to lower BMI measurements until we have identified and assured treatment for every airman with OSA."

EAA and its Aeromedical Advisory Council believe the new FAA policy is unnecessary and overreaching, and would place additional burdens and expense on individual aviators. EAA has expressed its objections to both the policy and the process under which it was enacted to FAA, but the agency dismissed those objections.

H.R. 3578 requires the OSA policy to undergo a formal rulemaking process before it can go into effect. Rulemaking includes an opportunity for public comment and a cost-benefit analysis. A similar bill concerning sleep apnea rules in the commercial trucking industry recently passed by unanimous consent.

"We urge EAA members and other aviators to act now to gain the necessary congressional support for this bill," said Sean Elliott, EAA's vice president of advocacy and safety. "This policy needs full rulemaking review and cost-benefit analysis as required by FAA's own policy, because it would have far-reaching implications for those holding airman medical certificates."

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