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Old 08-14-2009, 07:58 AM   #1  
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Default FAA to require testing for Sleep Apnea

The FAA is moving forward with an NTSB recommendation to require additional sleep study testing for a medical certificate if you have a history of sleep apnea, and/or if you meet certain criteria that would increase the likely hood of you having the disorder. I would imagine the additional criteria would be in the form of height and weight standards. Pretty much anyone over 200lbs would be a candidate for such testing.

I am a victim of sleep apnea myself and I have been through the entire process and I can tell you that it is a royal pain in the arse. First an initial sleep study would be required. If the initial study showd signs of sleep apnea you would be required to seek further treatment. Types of treatment include surgical procedures to remove your tonsils(if you still have them,) septoplasty, removal of your uvula, removal of a portion of your upper pallet, a procedure where they break your lower jaw and place steel extenders in it to move your lower mandible forward, implants put into your tongue to pull your tongue away from the back of your throat and a few others. Most often times one of the above procedures is coupled with the use of a mouthpiece worn while sleeping, or the use of a CPAP or BIPAP machine that goes over your face while you sleep. It usually takes a multiple approaches and even then, usually the Apnea doesn't go away completely. Cure rate is usually around 33-40% in adults. Losing weight also helps, but losing weight as a single solution is not an approved therapy per the FAA.

Once one of the above treatments is complete the pilot must undergo a follow up sleep study to determine the effects of the procedure. After my procedure, I am still required to use a CPAP machine and I have to undergo annual Maintenance of Wakefulness Testing to make sure I don't get sleepy during the daytime.

The MWT is an all day test that usually starts around 6:30am. They hook a bunch of wires up to your head and chest(similar to the sleep study) and put you on a bed in the sitting position in the dark. The room looks like a hotel, or bedroom. They close the door for 30-40 minutes and you have to sit there in the dark and not fall asleep. You just sit there. They watch you on camera the hole time to. You can't do anything to keep yourself awake either. No singing, humming, slapping yourself in the face etc. You have to sit still. Once you come out of the dark room you are confined to their clinic. You cannot leave the hospital. With about 2 hours in between tests, you go back into the bedroom and do it again. You repeat this process until approximately 5:00pm. This test flat out sucks.

Here are my thoughts....

I am a young man of about 225lbs and I am 6' tall. I am willing to bet that nearly 75% of the guys I fly with are shorter and much bigger than me and all suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea. It goes undiagnosed because the tests are expensive and you have to have a reason to get tested for it. Do you snore at night? Chances are, if you snore, you will be one of the FAAs prime suspects when you get your medical. Question is, will guys near 60 years old, or between 60 and 65 be willing to go through all of this just to be able to fly for a few more years. My quick answer is no.

Any thoughts?
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Old 08-14-2009, 10:04 AM   #2  
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So what you're saying is, not only will we have a fed ride the jumpseat, he will also follow you to the overnight? Hmm. Interesting.
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Old 08-14-2009, 12:33 PM   #3  
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Hey Turbo,
So, by using a CPAP and an acceptable MWT, satisfies the feds, for your medical certificate?
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Old 08-14-2009, 09:49 PM   #4  
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Default My thoughts

Turbodog,

My thoughts are if you are a young person who has already been diagnosed with sleep apnea what do you think the future holds for you and your career? I would not be counting on attrition from older pilots. If I were in your shoes I would be worried about myself. As people age they gain weight and things like that usually do not get any better. What would happen if you exceeded sleep apnea limitations and lost your medical?

Could you still fly with a third class medical? Is the FAA going to make everyone pass apnea tests?

Skyhigh
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Old 08-14-2009, 10:26 PM   #5  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GRpilot View Post
Hey Turbo,
So, by using a CPAP and an acceptable MWT, satisfies the feds, for your medical certificate?
Not exactly. I had to undergo surgery first. Then the use of CPAP and annual MWT tests with a passing result will allow me to get a special issuance medical. The FAA will not accept weight loss and CPAP as a therapy to combat the issue. They want to see something that produces better results, because they cannot tell if you are actually using the CPAP.
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Old 08-14-2009, 10:31 PM   #6  
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Quote:
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Turbodog,

My thoughts are if you are a young person who has already been diagnosed with sleep apnea what do you think the future holds for you and your career? I would not be counting on attrition from older pilots. If I were in your shoes I would be worried about myself. As people age they gain weight and things like that usually do not get any better. What would happen if you exceeded sleep apnea limitations and lost your medical?

Could you still fly with a third class medical? Is the FAA going to make everyone pass apnea tests?

Skyhigh
I am fine. I have already gone through the procedures, I am not overweight and the CPAP therapy provides a good night sleep. I am just wondering how the senior folks will do with it. There are tons of them that will blow a study and lots of them probably no that they will. So will they do it and spend the money on the surgery, or just hang it up. Most people are fine with surgical procedures, but there are also lots of people who are afraid of going under the knife. I can't tell you how many flights I have flown when the guy next to me can barely read the displays at night. I think the AMEs are going to start paying attention to this stuff now with all of the focus on pilot health. No more "Go stand over there and tell me if you can hear me whisper" type stuff.
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Old 08-15-2009, 12:32 AM   #7  
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I hope this is being overblown. I don't think I would have a problem, but I would quit immediately if they told me I had to have surgery based on BMI. I am not running around tired, I have plenty of energy and would have already done something about it if that was the case.
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Old 08-15-2009, 01:01 AM   #8  
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why do they remove your vulva?
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Old 08-15-2009, 10:31 AM   #9  
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Default sleep apnea

Turbodog, what is the source for this rumor?
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Old 08-25-2009, 08:34 PM   #10  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beech_nut View Post
Turbodog, what is the source for this rumor?
Not so much the FAA is, more like the NTSB says they should.

http://www.ntsb.gov/recs/letters/2009/A09_61_66.pdf
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