January 2014

Experimenter is a magazine created by EAA for people who build airplanes. We will report on amateur-built aircraft as well as ultralights and other light aircraft.

Issue link: http://experimenter.epubxp.com/i/247918

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Page 1 of 38

TOWER FREQUENCY FAA Overreaching BY JACK PELTON OUR FOUNDER PAUL POBEREZNY understood from the beginning that aviation must be regulated, but he also knew that personal aviation can only thrive under regulation that makes sense. That's why Paul worked so hard to help the FAA develop rules that work for personal and sport aviation. I'm happy to say that EAA's eforts have largely been successful. But we must be ever vigilant. A recent and worrisome example of the FAA overstepping its mission to ensure public safety is a new pilot medical certification policy that uses a pilot's weight to screen for a disqualifying medical condition. Starting soon aviation medical examiners (AMEs) will be required to calculate the body mass index (BMI) of a pilot and report it along with other medical data to the FAA. The BMI is a ratio of a person's height to weight. If a pilot's BMI is greater than 40, and his or her neck measures more than 17 inches, that pilot must now be evaluated for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The testing for OSA must be done by a board certified physician expert in the field and will almost certainly mean a trip to a sleep laboratory where the pilot will be hooked up to sensors that monitor body functions during sleep. The cost of the testing will be several thousand dollars or more and won't be fully covered by many health insurance plans. OSA has long been a disqualifying medical condition for pilots. It causes breathing passages to be blocked during sleep so the person briefly wakes many times during the night. This robs the OSA suferer of quality sleep, which can lead to drowsiness and fatigue during the day. Obviously, fatigue of any source is an added risk for pilots. But the new FAA policy has two big problems. One is that it employs a risk factor to require a pilot to prove he doesn't have a disqualifying condition. Being overweight can make it more likely that a person will sufer from OSA, but is merely a risk factor, not a conclusive screening test. There are many medical risk factors such as age, heredity, lifestyle, and so on, but they are vague and not conclusive. Demanding extensive medical testing based only on a risk category—weight in this case—is a new and very disturbing policy from the FAA. The second issue with the new FAA policy is that it imposes a costly new requirement on all pilots while providing no safety benefit to the public. The private pilot flying a light piston single under daylight VFR will face the same OSA requirements as the captain flying a Boeing 747 for a passenger airline. And that makes no sense in terms of public safety. When an operator ofers any form of transportation to the public we can agree that operator must meet reasonable safety standards. The driver of a passenger bus, engineer of a passenger train, captain of a passenger ship, and the captain of an airliner all should meet minimum standards for competency and medical qualification. But that same standard doesn't apply to operators of private vehicles, boats, or aircraft. We are expected to make our own risk analysis before we get in a car with a driver we know, or launch with a friend in a boat, or take of in a private airplane. Motorcycle riders have been largely successful in turning back similar overreach by state highway regulators. Some bikers want to ride without a helmet. It adds some risk to their safety, but doesn't increase risk to the public. If an adult biker wants to ride his motorcycle without a helmet, that should be his choice, and I'm happy to say, many state governments now agree. The pilot flying a private airplane for his own reasons is fully capable of monitoring his own fatigue level. I don't want any pilot flying when tired, but if the pilot of a private airplane does, it's his own risk. With its new OSA screening policy that targets overweight pilots the FAA has ventured out of the bounds of its mission and into the same territory as the motorcycle helmet regulators, or even those who want to ban huge sugary drinks. We can't allow broad, vague health risk categories to be used to ground pilots until they undergo expensive and invasive testing to prove they are fit to fly. At EAA, AOPA, and the other associations we must remain vigilant to prevent this kind of overreach that burdens pilots without doing anything to enhance public safety. See Page 6 to read about the success EAA advocacy has had fighting this in Congress. On the cover: Dan Weseman shows of his Sport Performance Panther. (Photography by Michael Steineke) 2 Vol.3 No.1 / January 2014 Photography by Jason Toney

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