2014 Press Releases

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NBAA, Other Aviation Groups Call for Swift Passage of Senate's Sleep Apnea Bill

Contact: Dan Hubbard, (202) 783-9360, dhubbard@nbaa.org

Washington, DC, March 6, 2014 – The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) joined a coalition of aviation groups this week in calling for swift passage of U.S. Senate legislation aimed at bringing transparency to any decision by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to implement mandatory testing of pilots and air traffic controllers for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) before receiving a medical certificate.

"As aviation community stakeholders, we are writing to express our support for S.1941, commonsense bipartisan legislation to address the sweeping [FAA] proposal to change the policy on sleep apnea for pilots and air traffic controllers without the benefit of a rulemaking process," reads the March 4 letter to senators. "Further, we wish to express our collective hope that passing this important bill in a timely fashion will be a priority for the U.S. Senate in the coming weeks."

The FAA announced in November 2013 its controversial plan mandating OSA screening for pilots and air traffic control (ATC) personnel with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater. Agency officials later indicated that the screening requirement would ultimately apply to additional pilots, regardless of the class of medical certificate, or the type of operation in which the pilot flies.

The proposal immediately alarmed NBAA and other organizations, in part because the FAA appeared to have made its plans without taking input from industry stakeholders.

NBAA joined with other aviation groups in working to mobilize the industry regarding the FAA's proposal, and bring Congressional attention to the agency's plans. Capitol Hill lawmakers took notice of those efforts, with legislation introduced in both houses of Congress to compel the FAA to consider industry input before enacting any changes.

In the House of Representatives, Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-2-NJ) and ranking aviation subcommittee member Rep. Rick Larsen (D-2-WA) introduced H.R.3578, which  passed in the House by a voice vote on Feb. 11.

Similar legislation now under consideration in the U.S. Senate was introduced in January by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and James Inhofe (R-OK), members of the Senate General Aviation (GA) Caucus, and co-sponsored by Senate GA Caucus Co-Chairs Sens. Mark Begich (D-AK) and Mike Johanns (R-NE).

While stressing the industry's support for measures to combat pilot and air traffic controller fatigue, the aviation groups also emphasized that the FAA's suggested mandatory OSA screening policy is "not only unnecessary and costly, but would have only a questionable impact on the safety of our nation's skies.

"First and foremost, OSA has never been identified as a causal or contributing factor in a single fatal aviation accident," the aviation groups noted. "Furthermore, the policy would unjustly rescind the medical certificate for certain pilots until they have undergone burdensome and costly screening for OSA before being allowed to reapply for their medical clearance under a lengthy special issuance process, during which the pilot is either unable to fly or earn a living as a pilot or air traffic controller."

In addition to NBAA, the letter was sent on behalf of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA); Allied Pilots Association (APA); Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA); General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA); Helicopter Association International (HAI); National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA); NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots (NJASAP); Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF) and Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA).

Read the coalition's letter in its entirety. (PDF)

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Founded in 1947 and based in Washington, DC, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) is the leading organization for companies that rely on general aviation aircraft to help make their businesses more efficient, productive and successful. The Association represents more than 10,000 companies and provides more than 100 products and services to the business aviation community, including the NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition, the world's largest civil aviation trade show. Learn more about NBAA at www.nbaa.org.

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