January 16, 2014

Manchin, Inhofe Introduce Bill to Protect Pilots, Air Traffic Controllers

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) today introduced bipartisan legislation that would ensure the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) conducts an open rulemaking process before enacting potential changes to the medical certification requirements for pilots and air traffic controllers in relation to sleep disorders.

“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,” Senator Manchin said. “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,” said 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.”

In November 2013, the Federal Air Surgeon at the FAA proposed new guidance regarding the screening and testing for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) for pilots and air traffic controllers. The guidance assumes that aviators and air traffic controllers with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or above have OSA by default, and would require a full battery of testing and evaluation. Since these tests would significantly cost individuals and companies, Senators Manchin and Inhofe introduced legislation to simply require the FAA to follow the traditional rulemaking process and allow the pilot community to provide input before establishing any new parameters to test pilots and air traffic controllers for sleep disorders.

To read the text of the bill, please click here.
Senators Manchin and Inhofe’s legislation has been endorsed by the NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots (NJASAP), the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA), the Aircraft Pilots and Owners Association (AOPA) and the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA).

This legislation is the bipartisan House-companion bill to H.R. 3578, introduced by Reps. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ-02), Rick Larsen (D-WA-02), Dr. Larry Bucshon (R-IN-08), Daniel Lipinski (D-IL-03), and Sam Graves (R-MO-06).