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Bill would require rulemaking for pilot sleep apnea screening mandates

Washington – Following a Federal Aviation Administration announcement that obese pilots may have to be screened for obstructive sleep apnea, the House passed a bill Feb. 11 that would require such a policy to go through a formal rulemaking process.

FAA’s Federal Air Surgeon stated in late 2013 that pilots with a body mass index of 40 or higher – a severe level of obesity directly linked to OSA – would be targeted for screening. Air traffic controllers and pilots with BMIs of 30 or higher also could be screened.

The bill would allow the public to comment on any new policies that would require pilots or air traffic controllers to be screened for a sleep disorder.

OSA, which is characterized by sudden breathing pauses during sleep, can cause daytime fatigue and is linked to a higher risk of crashing an aircraft.

An identical bill in the Senate has been referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

At press time, the House bill had been sent to the Senate.