FAA Can Disqualify Pilots if Untreated
FAA announces tests for sleep apnea in pilots to come in 2014. Some time ago we covered a blog regarding sleep apnea and the effects on Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers (read here
). The risks involved with driving while fatigued have been well documented, evaluated and regulated. Recent addition to FAA regulations have taken this same approach to the sky.
A recent announcement by FAA federal air surgeon, Dr. Fred Tilton states immediate testing will be done for those with a BMI over 40 and/or a size 17 inch neck or larger and will continue to test lower BMI’s, “until we have identified and assured treatment for every airman”. However, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association isn’t supporting this immediate call to action and has stated, “this policy seems to be based one incident”. Rob Hackman, VP of the AOPA, when on to say, “analysis of a decade of fatal general aviation accidents by the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee didn’t identify obstructive sleep apnea as a contributing or causal factor in any of the accidents studied.”
Since 2008, there have been more than one incident. On a February 2008 flight, two Go! Airline pilots overflew their destination by 25 plus miles, later admitting to falling asleep. Following testing, the captain of this flight would be diagnosed with Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea. A 2009 crash near Buffalo, New York reported fatigue as a factor, which immediately made sleep apnea testing mandatory to all commercial pilots. This testing and stricter guidelines for commercial pilots, is put into effect, January 2014.
Although the National Air Traffic Controllers Association declined comment
on the policy, the FAA stated the policy is, “designed to help airmen and aviation safety by improving the diagnosis of unrecognized or untreated obstructive sleep apnea.”
Keeping air passengers safe and to avoid future issues of pilot fatigue, is the reason the FAA announces tests for sleep apnea in pilots.