FAA to Issue New Guidance on Sleep Apnea

Friday, January 23, 2015

January 23–The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) continually works with the aviation and medical communities to maintain medical certification standards that are intended to ensure that pilots are qualified to safely fly. On March 2, the FAA willissue new medical guidance to Aviation Medical Examiners (AMEs) that will balance industry and Congressional concerns with the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) safety concerns about pilots flying with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).

The FAA is not changing the way it regards OSA under its medical certification standards, however, it is revising the screening approach to help AMEs find undiagnosed and untreated OSA. The new guidance will improve safety and pilot health by reducing the burdens and disincentives that may have prevented some pilots from seeking an OSA evaluation and treatment.  AME’s will be able to issue medical certificates to most applicants who have some clinical indications of OSA. The applicant may continue to hold that certificate while their condition is evaluated and as they begin treatment, if needed.  The applicant will receive a letter from the Federal Air Surgeon requiring him/her to provide the FAA with additional medical information related to their clinical indication of possible OSA.  Pilots diagnosed with OSA may send documentation of effective treatment to the FAA in order to have the FAA consider them for a special issuance medical certificate.

Based on feedback from industry on the FAA’s draft guidance, the new guidance does not rely on BMI alone and allows a pilot to keep flying during evaluation and treatment.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.

 > See FAA Fact Sheet with detailed information on sleep apnea in aviation