I have heard that the FAA is forcing overweight pilots to undergo extensive sleep apnea testing before receiving their medical certificates—is that true?

It is true that in late 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration proposed a very invasive policy that would require all pilots with a BMI over 40 to undergo expensive sleep apnea testing with a sleep specialist. Until the pilot completed the testing, he or she would be denied a medical certificate.


Thankfully, after much backlash from pilots and the flying community, the FAA revisited the policy in April and made some small changes that do not blatantly discriminate based on BMI numbers alone. The changes still require aviation medical examiners to ask questions about sleep apnea; pilots who are referred for further sleep apnea evaluation will still be issued a medical certificate if they are otherwise qualified and will have 90 days to get an assessment, during which the pilot will still be allowed to fly.


The new policy draft allows pilots who are referred for sleep apnea testing to see any physician for the assessment, not just a sleep specialist. If the doctor does not think a sleep test is necessary, it is not a required part of the assessment.


The FAA maintains its stance that untreated obstructed sleep apnea (OSA) is a disqualifying medical condition, as it can interfere with restorative sleep. If a pilot is diagnosed, the AME will have to submit all sleep test results medical information, treatments, and other information to the FAA. Luckily, simple treatment methods are available, including commonly-used continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines, which are worn only at night.


If you feel as though you are being unfairly discriminated against in your quest for a medical certificate, your instincts may be right. Call the Phoenix aviation attorneys at Curry, Pearson & Wooten today at 602-258-1000 to discuss your concerns with a lawyer.