FAA to pilots: If you’re too fat, better make sure you get enough sleep

“Federal Air Surgeon Dr. Fred Tilton has notified Air Medical Examiners (AMEs) that they will soon be required to measure the body mass index (BMI) of all pilots and controllers during their medicals. Anyone with a BMI of 40 or more (up to 25 is normal)” … will have to be evaluated by a “board certified sleep specialist” to make sure they don’t suffer from sleep apnea and get enough rest.
– While the link between BMI and health issues is a lot more tenuous than the medical-industrial complex would like to believe, the correlation between being fat and suffering sleep apnea is pretty real. But whether the FAA should be getting involved in this level of control is another story, all together, Shirley.

13 responses to “FAA to pilots: If you’re too fat, better make sure you get enough sleep

  1. We, need to start looking more closely at the health and habits of bureaucrats and lawmakers that may effect their decisions.

  2. Sounds like more bureaucrats than useful jobs. I’ve heard supposed authorities say that weight does affect and does not affect sleep apnea.

  3. Obesity doesn’t cause sleep apnea. It seems intuitive to the lay public that fat people can ‘suffocate’ on their fat in their sleep and have obstructive sleep apnea. But, as Dr. Christopher J. Lettieri, M.D. and colleagues at Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine Service, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, wrote: “Obesity is neither necessary nor sufficient for the development of obstructive sleep apnea.” Nor does weight loss, even substantial weight loss, cure sleep apnea. Rather than rely on subjective, undefined reports of sleep apnea and treatment success, they conducted polysomnography evaluations before and after bariatric surgery on severe obstructive sleep apnea patients. All but one still had persistent apnea and 20 out of 23 patients still required CPAP. These studies have been confirmed by other objective research. They warned against using subjective beliefs about resolution of snoring rather than objective clinical criteria. “Many, if not most, individuals will have persistent OSA despite significant weight loss,” they said.

    • Well your doctor will tell you it increases problems with the current sleep apnia issue, and the first thing your doctor will do when you have the issue, is tell you to lose weight.
      Of course doctors have said many things over the year, but I will need more than a post by some anonymous person on a blog before I make up my mind.

  4. So an inherently faulty measuring system is advocated by the FFA. BMI is more like astrology then anything remotely scientific. Any highly athletic heavyweight boxer will easily pass BMI 35. It’s such an absurd system, incredible

    • I think their concern is the lack of sleep. Pilots routinely have odd work schedules and already have issues with getting the appropriate amount of sleep between flights. Especially if they fly overseas, are jet lagged and have to fly back in a day or two. Tylenol PM is a fave amongst pilots.

      I don’t know enough about the Fatness/sleep issue to know if being overweight does cause sleep difficulty. What I can tell you is this – Pilots are required to have an annual very thorough physical every year (there are actually 3 levels of physical – I am talking about the serious one for passenger planes) and this would just be part of the routine physical.

      The whole point is, you don’t want airplanes careening out of the sky. If it is careening because the pilots fell asleep that could be a problem.

      That said, we have had only one passenger jet crash in 10 years, in the USA, killing three people on a 777 landing in San Francisco recently. The safety record is currently phenomenal compared to the 1980’s and 1990’s. Is this extra effort to help with sleep necessary, probably not.

  5. I have a brother so skinny he has to tear about wildly in the shower just to get wet. Still, he snores like a broken nosed hog.

  6. iF A PILOT HAS A BMI OF 40 OR HIGHER, they will have problems getting into the cockpit of the airplane and will not fit into the pilots’ seat.

  7. The notes above are all very insightful.

    First–obesity is not the determinant of sleep apnea.

    Second–extreme obesity would prevent a person from being a pilot.

    Third–pilot physicals allow for a lot of discretion, so as long as pilots have to be ok for driving big busses with lot’s of people in them, there will some arbitrary precautionary rules.

    It’s like the military–you wanna play–ugotta live with the rules as established by the rule makers.

    They be lookin for avoiding the potential for an increased risk, so look sharp, be sharp, test sharp.

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