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FAA guidance will revise how examiners screen for sleep apnea

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Washington – The Federal Aviation Administration intends to publish new guidance March 2 to revise how Aviation Medical Examiners screen pilots for obstructive sleep apnea.

FAA’s medical standards will not change – untreated obstructive sleep apnea will remain categorized by the agency as a disqualifying medical condition. But the new guidance will allow pilots to continue to fly during AME evaluation and treatment, and it will not disqualify a pilot based solely on a body mass index of 40 or more.

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,” FAA said in a press release. As of press time, FAA said 4,917 FAA-certified pilots were receiving treatment for sleep apnea and continued to fly with a special medical certificate.

If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea may pose significant safety risks, including:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Decreased memory
  • Shortened attention span
  • Difficulty solving problems
  • Changes in personality
  • Abnormal heart beat
  • Hypertension
  • Stroke

The Lititz, PA-based American Sleep Association highlights several signs and symptoms of sleep apnea, and offers a self-screening questionnaire.