Jan. 10, 2014

The ongoing effort to bring greater transparency to a controversial FAA measure requiring mandatory screening of some pilots for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) was a key topic of conversation in a Jan. 8 meeting between Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-2-NJ) and NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen in the congressman’s Capitol Hill office.

In addition to his role as chairman of the House aviation subcommittee, LoBiondo sponsored H.R.3578, a bipartisan measure requiring the FAA to follow established rulemaking processes before implementing any OSA screening requirement, including a means for industry stakeholders to provide input on the proposal.

“With Congress returning to Washington for the start of a new session this week, one of my first priorities was to express the business aviation community’s appreciation for the efforts by Congressman LoBiondo and his colleagues to ensure that industry input is considered in any new OSA-screening requirement,” Bolen said following the meeting.

In November 2013, the FAA revealed a plan to require pilots with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater to undergo mandatory OSA screening, and obtain the requisite equipment to threat the condition if necessary, prior to receiving or renewing their medical certificate.

The measure came despite the lack of any direct causal link between OSA and flying accidents, and no clear indication that the additional screening requirement would improve aviation safety. Of equal concern to NBAA and its Member Companies has been the agency’s intent to move forward with mandatory OSA screening without first seeking industry input on the measure as part of the established rulemaking process.

The meeting between Bolen and LoBiondo is the latest development in NBAA’s ongoing engagement with lawmakers and key aviation officials on the subject of OSA screening. In testimony provided for a December aviation subcommittee hearing on aviation policy and planning, Bolen expressed his continuing concern about implementation of an OSA- screening requirement without first seeking comment from aviation stakeholders. Read the written testimony Bolen submitted to the aviation subcommittee in its entirety.

The hearing followed a letter Bolen sent to committee members detailing NBAA’s concern over the agency’s attempt to implement of a rule that could have profoundly negative effects on the general aviation community, including business aviation. Read Bolen’s Dec. 3 letter to the House committee in its entirety.

In response to concerns raised by lawmakers and industry stakeholders about the OSA-screening proposal, the FAA recently agreed to meet with industry associations to hear their concerns. Although the Bolen has called the meeting a good first step, he also has noted that plan still falls short of the normal rulemaking process.

“While sleep apnea is certainly an important health issue, any policy should also consider feedback from those who stand to be impacted most by these new requirements,” he said. “As a new congressional session gets underway, and Congressman LoBiondo’s legislation awaits consideration by the full House of Representatives, we must remain engaged on this issue, and present a clear, united voice of support for the bill.”

People in the business community can join in that effort by using NBAA’s Contact Congress resource to alert their House representatives to this issue, and urge them to support the LoBiondo bill to bring transparency to the FAA’s OSA-screening policy development process. Review the letter NBAA Members can send to their congressional representatives regarding the FAA’s planned OSA policy.