The FAA said on Friday that it will soon publish new medical guidelines on obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) to its aviation medical examiners. The guidelines, to be released March 2, are expected to incorporate industry and Congressional feedback with the FAA’s and NTSB’s safety concerns about pilots flying with OSA, a condition that inhibits normal restorative sleep.
The agency does not plan to alter any medical standards; OSA has always been and will remain a disqualifying medical condition, the FAA said. What is changing, however, is the agency’s approach to screening.
Based on feedback from industry to an FAA draft issued last year, the new guidance does not rely solely on body mass index and allows a pilot to keep flying during evaluation and treatment. Pilots diagnosed with OSA will be asked to document effective treatment to arrange for a Special Issuance medical certificate.
The FAA believes the new guidance will improve safety and pilot health by reducing the burdens and disincentives that might have prevented some pilots from seeking an OSA evaluation and treatment.