Newly introduced Senate bill S 1941, a companion to HR 3578, would compel the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to go through the more stringent “rulemaking” process before implementing policy changes related to sleep disorders. The current practice of issuing “guidelines” makes it easier to regulate private pilots when it comes to sleep-related problems.
According to a report in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), the legislation was introduced by Senators Joe Manchin (D-WVa) and Jim Inhofe (R-Okla), who are both AOPA members.
“The legislation comes in response to the FAA’s unilateral announcement of a policy that would require pilots with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater to undergo expensive and intrusive sleep apnea testing,” writes AOPA reporter Elizabeth Tennyson. “The FAA initially said it planned to lower the BMI requirement over time, potentially affecting more than 120,000 pilots with a BMI of 30 or higher.”
“As a pilot myself, I recognize that there is nothing more important than making sure our skies are safe, and I appreciate the FAA’s efforts to offer the best guidance on how to do so,” said Manchin on the AOPA Web site. “I also believe that government should work as a partner with the private sector. It’s just common sense to let the pilot community provide public feedback during the rulemaking process before the FAA finalizes any new guidelines.”
“This bill protects our nation’s pilots by ensuring that any changes to the medical certification requirements are done in a manner consistent with the well-established rulemaking process that allows for thorough consideration and adequate public input,” added Inhofe. “This is a classic ‘bureaucrats know best’ effort by the FAA regarding the personal health of those in the aviation industry. I am proud to join Sen. Manchin in introducing legislation that would enforce transparency with FAA’s latest change to its medical certification requirement and ensure pilots, air traffic controllers, and other stakeholders who would be potentially impacted have a voice.”