Not so fat vs. not so fast

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It’s shaping up as not-so-fat versus not-so-fast, a battle over the bulge between the Federal Aviation Administration and Congress about  just how beefy pilots and air traffic controllers should be.

We told you a couple of days ago that Federal Air Surgeon Fred Tilton wanted all pilots and controllers with a body mass index of 40 or more, or a neck circumference of 17 inches or more, to undergo medical evaluation to retain the medical certification required to fly planes or direct them in flight, Tilton said.

Congress quickly stepped in this week with a House bill that require the FAA to go through the lengthy rulemaking process before implementing new the new policy.

The long list of House heavyweights behind the bill include  Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee; Rick Larsen (D-Wa.), ranking member of the aviation subcommittee;  Sam Graves (R-Miss.), co-chair of the House General Aviation Caucus; and four other members of the House General Aviation Caucus.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association said decades’ worth of fatal general aviation accidents found no cases in which sleep apnea was a causal or contributing factor, but estimated that the policy could cost pilots between $99 million and $347 million in medical fees alone.

“We are grateful to our friends in Congress who stepped forward to offer this legislation,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “The policy change is arbitrary and capricious and doesn’t make sense given the data.”

Ashley Halsey reports on national and local transportation.
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Paul Duggan · November 22, 2013