Wings Magazine

NBAA welcomes progress on U.S. sleep apnea-screening policy

Jan. 17, 2014, Washington, D.C. - The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) today reported that the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) controversial proposal for mandating obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) screening for some pilots has taken centre stage in Washington, with welcome developments on the issue in the U.S. Senate and at the FAA.

January 17, 2014  By Carey Fredericks

On Capitol Hill, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and James Inhofe (R-OK) today introduced a measure (S.1941) to require the FAA to follow the established rulemaking process as the agency seeks to implement its OSA-screening requirement. Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK), an original co-sponsor of the bill, is a member of the Senate General Aviation Caucus, along with Manchin and Inhofe. The Senate legislation is similar to a bill (H.R.3578) introduced last November by House Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-2-NJ). 

“NBAA thanks Senators Manchin, Inhofe and Begich for their leadership on this issue,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “The FAA’s OSA-screening proposal, carrying the effect of a rule or regulation with significant industry impact, should be subject to complete transparency, including input from the people in the industry who have the most at stake from the agency’s suggested action.”

In addition to the introduction of the Senate bill, the FAA held a meeting with aviation stakeholders today, in which agency officials signaled their intention to revise the OSA-screening proposal, and share the revised document with industry.

Doug Carr, NBAA vice president of regulatory and international affairs, represented business aviation interests at today’s FAA meeting, which was held by Federal Air Surgeon Dr. Frederick Tilton, who had announced plans to hold the gathering last month. Carr noted that, during today’s meeting, FAA officials said that, in response to the concerns raised by NBAA and other aviation stakeholders, the agency is planning to draft a revised version of the OSA-screening plan, accounting for elements of industry’s concern. Agency officials have indicated their desire to make a written draft of the revised plan available prior to implementing any permanent change.


“We appreciate the Federal Air Surgeon’s effort to provide an opportunity for NBAA and others to express the concerns we have heard from many people in the aviation community,” Bolen said. “While we view the FAA’s apparent readiness to consider revisions to its OSA-screening plan as an initial good step, we want an opportunity to review the details of the revised policy before coming to any conclusions about it. We will also continue to support the House and Senate legislation on the matter, because those measures speak to our ongoing concern about the need for industry input through a formal rulemaking process.”    

Today’s developments in the Senate and at the FAA come in the wake of an announcement from the FAA in November 2013 that the agency would soon move ahead with a plan for mandating that pilots with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater be screened for OSA before receiving a medical certificate.

In the time since the FAA announced its OSA-screening plan, NBAA and other groups have continually worked to bring attention to the policy, and to prompt industry mobilization on the issue.

Most recently, Bolen met on Jan. 8 with Rep. LoBiondo, to thank the chairman for his leadership on the issue and seek the congressman’s guidance on further work the industry can do to support the legislation.

In testimony provided for a December aviation subcommittee hearing on aviation policy and planning, Bolen expressed his continuing concern about implementation of an OSA- screening requirement without first seeking comment from aviation stakeholders. 

The hearing followed a letter Bolen sent to committee members detailing NBAA’s concerns over the agency's attempt to implement its OSA-screening rule.


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