Washington, DC, Dec. 4, 2013 – The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) thanked a key U.S. House of Representatives panel for approving legislation that would compel the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to follow established rulemaking processes before implementing a new requirement that some pilots be screened for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) prior to receiving a medical certificate.
The legislation, H.R. 3578, was introduced on Nov. 21 by Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-2-NJ), chairman of the Transportation Committee's Aviation Subcommittee. The bill responds to a new policy, first reported in a November 2013 FAA newsletter, that the agency would soon begin subjecting pilots with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater to OSA screening.
It was later revealed that the agency would require pilots to bear the significant costs of getting tested for OSA (as much as $5,000, according to some sources), and obtaining the requisite equipment to treat the condition, if necessary. The FAA has suggested that this policy would eventually apply to all pilots, regardless of the class of medical certificate or the operation in which the pilot flies.
LoBiondo's bill seeks to ensure "that any new or revised requirement providing for the screening, testing, or treatment of an airman...is adopted pursuant to a rulemaking proceeding." Upon its introduction, the bipartisan measure had six co-sponsors, including Rep. Rick Larsen (D-2-WA), ranking member of the Transportation Committee's Aviation Subcommittee, and Reps. Sam Graves (R-6-MO), Dan Lipinski (D-3-IL), Larry Bucshon (R-8- IN), Richard Hudson (R-8-NC) and Pat Meehan (R-7-PA). With today's approval by the House Transportation Committee, the bill now moves to consideration by the full House of Representatives.
"We thank the co-sponsors of H.R.3578, and all the members of the full committee, for their prompt, bipartisan action on this matter, and we look forward to prompt passage of the bill by the full House," said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. "As the FAA considers unilateral implementation of a policy of this magnitude, the proposal should be subject to transparency, in part through commentary from affected parties, as well as analysis of its data-driven justification, costs, benefits and other important criteria. This bill will ensure that these important considerations are made before the proposed OSA requirement is allowed to take effect."
Earlier this week, committee members issued a call to aviation organizations, including NBAA, asking for industry input on the proposed legislation. In a letter provided to the committee, Bolen noted that, "Concerns about OSA are understandable, which is why today, untreated OSA is a disqualifying medical condition for flying. However, there is no definitive causal link between undiagnosed OSA and any impact on flight safety." In addition, Bolen said, "There appears to be little or no data to suggest that mandating this additional screening requirement will improve aviation safety." Read NBAA's letter to the House Transportation Committee regarding the FAA's planned OSA policy.
In recent weeks, NBAA has also encouraged Association members to utilize NBAA's online Contact Congress resource, to make their voices heard on the FAA's proposed policy change. Review the letter NBAA Members can send to their congressional representatives regarding the FAA's planned OSA policy.