ALPA applauds Senate Bill to Protect Medical Certifications for Pilots

ALPA applauds Senators James Inhofe (R-OK) and Joe Manchin, III (D-WV) for introducing S. 1941 requiring the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct an open rule-making process before making proposed changes to how Aviation Medical Examiners (AMEs) screen for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in pilots and air traffic controllers. 

The FAA has been evaluating sleep apnea for a number of years and has classified it as a disqualifying condition since 1996. The agency took some limited steps a few years ago to inform pilots of the risk of OSA via information provided to Aviation Medical Examiners (AMEs). Most recently, however, the FAA’s Federal Air Surgeon published a controversial new policy to proactively identify those who suffer from OSA. The policy would require that applicants with a BMI of 40 or more be evaluated by a physician who is a board certified sleep specialist, and anyone who is diagnosed with OSA would have to be treated before they could be medically certificated.

The new guidelines, called for the screening of OSA on the basis of a single health factor (i.e., BMI measurement of 40 or greater), and could lead to an abrupt halt to many pilots’ livelihoods on an extended, or even permanent, basis.  The diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea can each cost thousands of dollars; insurance coverage varies, so pilots may have to pay for most, if not all, of these expenses out of their own pocket. 

“The hasty manner in which the agency has developed this potentially career-ending policy, without an adequate opportunity for stakeholder input, is completely unwarranted.  ALPA is very thankful to Senators Inhofe and Manchin for taking the initiative to advance this critical legislation.”  Captain Lee Moak, President, ALPA, International

S. 1941 is the Senate companion to H.R. 3578, introduced by House Reps. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ-02), Rick Larsen (D-WA-02), Dr. Larry Bucshon (R-IN-08), Daniel Lipinski (D-IL-03), and Sam Graves (R-MO-06).  H.R. 3578 was favorably advanced by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and currently awaits consideration by the full House of Representatives.

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