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FAA’s Latest News and Updates

Pilots and aviation industry folks are busy people—to help you stay legal, compliant, and in the know, here are some of the latest news and updates from the website.

FAA issues new guidance on Obstructive Sleep Apnea

January 23: In an effort to maintain medical certification standards to ensure that pilots are qualified to safely fly, on March 2, the FAA will issue new medical guidance to Aviation Medical Examiners (AMEs) regarding safety concerns about pilots flying with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).

While the FAA is not changing the way it regards OSA under its medical certification standards, it is revising the screening approach to help AMEs find undiagnosed and untreated OSA.

In an effort to improve safety and pilot health, the new guidance will reduce the burdens and disincentives that may have prevented some pilots from seeking an OSA evaluation and treatment in the past.

AME’s will be able to issue medical certificates to most applicants who have some clinical indications of OSA.

The applicant may continue to hold that certificate while their condition is evaluated and as they begin treatment, if needed.

The applicant will receive a letter from the Federal Air Surgeon requiring him/her to provide the FAA with additional medical information related to their clinical indication of possible OSA.

Pilots diagnosed with OSA may send documentation of effective treatment to the FAA in order to have the FAA consider them for a special issuance medical certificate.

Based on feedback from industry on the FAA’s draft guidance, the new guidance does not rely on BMI alone and allows a pilot to keep flying during evaluation and treatment.

The FAA plans to publish the new guidance in the FAA Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners on March 2, 2015.

FAA advises e-cigarettes to be carried-on only

January 23: As the popularity of e-cigarettes increases, the FAA is advising airlines to make sure passengers don’t put their e-cigarettes in checked baggage, where they can pose a fire hazard in the cargo compartment. Instead, the FAA advises that e-cigs be brought on board in carry-on bags.

The FAA’s Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) announcement stemmed from a recent bulletin from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the arm of the United Nations that develops and disseminates suggested standards for the international aviation community.

The ICAO described several incidents both inside and outside the transportation industry where e-cigarettes have overheated or caught fire when the heating element was accidentally activated.

Last August, an e-cigarette in a checked bag stowed in an airliner’s cargo hold caused a fire that forced an evacuation of the aircraft. The danger may be increased when users modify and rebuild their reusable e-cigarette devices and interchange original and aftermarket batteries, heating elements, and vaporizing components.

The FAA SAFO recommends that operators follow the ICAO bulletin and require passengers to carry e-cigarettes and related devices solely in the aircraft cabin, where overheating or fire can be observed and handled more quickly.

The agency also encourages airlines to communicate this new policy to passengers as widely as possible through their websites, press releases, at ticket purchase, during the check-in process and via other communications.

FAA allows eight more UAS exemptions

February 3: The FAA announced that it has granted eight more regulatory exemptions for commercial use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operations.

The FAA’s Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, found that the proposed operations do not need an FAA-issued certificate of airworthiness because they pose no threat to national airspace users or national security, thus granting the UAS exemptions. Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 permits those findings.

In considering the exemptions, the FAA looked at planned operating environments and required certain conditions and limitations to assure the safe operation of these UAS in the National Airspace System. For example, operations require both a pilot and observer, the pilot must have at least an FAA Private Pilot certificate and a current medical certificate, and the UAS must remain within line of sight at all times.

The companies that received UAS exemptions include Total Safety U.S. Inc. for flare stack inspections, Slugwear, Inc. (dba LikeonaTree Aerial) for aerial photography and surveys, and Team 5, LLC, Shotover Camera Systems LP, Helinet Aviation Services, LLC, and Alan D. Purwin for film and television production.

The FAA also amended the exemptions previously granted to Pictorvision, Inc. and Aerial MOB, LLC to let the companies fly additional types of small UAS.

As of the posting of this announcement, the FAA has received 342 requests for exemptions from commercial entities and individuals, and has granted 24 UAS exemptions.

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