Senior Care - How to Provide Elderly Independence

Want To Be A Pilot But Have Sleep Apnea? Here's What You'll Need To Do

by Stephen Silva

Being able to fulfill a dream of becoming a pilot can have you soaring to new heights, but the required medical examination can be a speed bump for those who have medical conditions such as sleep apnea. A pilot's health is important to their safety and the safety of their passengers and people and property on the ground. Because of this, the Federal Aviation Administration requires pilots and pilots-in-training to undergo extensive medical exams.

Fortunately, you can still pilot aircraft with a diagnosis of sleep apnea as long as an aero-medical examiner determines that you are in compliance with treatment and have no symptoms. If you dream of becoming a pilot but have sleep apnea, here's what you'll need to do. 

Sleep Study

The first step is to have a sleep study done. In this study, electrodes and other monitoring devices will be attached to you to measure various functions while you sleep. The technologist will watch the monitoring devices in another room and annotate when your breathing changes due to your sleep apnea. After the test, the technologist will consult with the neurologist who will determine what type of treatment you'll need, which is usually using a CPAP machine to keep your airways open while you sleep. 

CPAP Titration Study

The next step is to have a CPAP titration study done. This is done to calibrate the appropriate positive airway pressure your machine will be set to so you can achieve sleep each night. If time is of the essence, this study can be done the same night as the sleep study, but you will need to make a special request to do so. When combined, it's called a split-night sleep study. 

Special Issuance

When you show compliance with your treatment plan and have no symptoms of sleep apnea, you can then request a special issuance through an aero-medical examiner for your pilot's medical certificate. To show compliance, you may have to undergo yet another sleep study so your medical team can see how effectively the CPAP machine works for you. 

Maintenance of Wakefulness Test 

Sometimes, people in your position are asked to perform a maintenance of wakefulness test, which is done during the span of a day. This test measures your ability to remain awake and your alertness during the day. It's another method to determine if you are in compliance with the necessary treatments and are safe to pilot aircraft. 

In conclusion, as you can see these tests can take time, so you may need to adjust the start date of your flight training. 

To learn more about sleep apnea, contact a sleep center in your area.