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I was diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea a few weeks ago. I'm told that this somehow complicates my ability to get a license (I haven't started on my license yet.) I'm having a hard time figuring out what the FAA page is trying to tell me (and what the accompanying "helpful chart" means.)

Could someone who speaks FAA style legalese give me a run down of what is being said? I just want to know if I'm allowed to fly with treated sleep apnea, and what I need to do to make sure my medical is completed properly...

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    $\begingroup$ That FAA page and chart are for AMEs, not pilots, so they're not exactly user-friendly :-) If you aren't already a member, join AOPA: their members forums have lots of threads about this, and they can provide advice on the medical process too. Looking at their OSA page it seems that everything starts with an AME determining which risk category you're in. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Mar 28 '16 at 12:56
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When an Aviation Medical Examiner, AME, issues you a medical certificate, that is the relevant "permission" you need. Having sleep apnea complicates that issuance process, but doesn't necessarily make it impossible. Along with what you read on the AOPA forums, I would suggest making an appointment to talk with a local AME, preferably one who has accomplished this process with other pilots before. He can give you a picture of what the process is likely to look like in your case, which is a better answer than assuming that your journey will look like that of somebody you read about on the internet.

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    $\begingroup$ There is a huge percentage of the population with sleep apnea, and it's been a really big deal with the FAA. I'm sure there is a standard procedure for getting cleared to fly with treated OSA. $\endgroup$ – Jay Carr Mar 28 '16 at 14:40
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    $\begingroup$ An individual's specific symptoms could affect the specifics of how long it would take them to satisfy the FAA's requirements - thus the recommendation to talk to an AME for the answer in his case, rather than a generic answer that may or may not apply. Since the AME is the one who issues the medical, he is the authoritative source for what this pilot will need... not an internet message board, or "I'm sure there must be..." opinions. $\endgroup$ – Ralph J Mar 28 '16 at 14:47
  • $\begingroup$ Lemme expand on what I mean: There is a document the FAA created trying to explain the hoops you need to jump through and what my diagnoses might mean, but I'm having trouble following it. I'm looking for an interpretation of it that doesn't involve me scheduling an appointment and spending money to speak to an AME. Does that make more sense? If you'd like to discuss in more detail, please join me in chat: chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/12036/the-hangar $\endgroup$ – Jay Carr Mar 28 '16 at 15:00
  • $\begingroup$ @JayCarr Paying for AOPA medical and consulting with them is going to be your best option for what you want. They will give you a point by point overview of the process and help get your medical through the process. Especially helpful if your medical gets deferred to OKC. $\endgroup$ – casey Mar 28 '16 at 17:35
  • $\begingroup$ @casey Well, if you and Ralph J and Pondlife are all going to say the same thing... Then I guess I'm just mistaken and maybe it's time to get an AOPA membership in lieu of getting a license. $\endgroup$ – Jay Carr Mar 28 '16 at 19:09
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Ralph J Covered it pretty well but I will expand on what he said with a few other facts.

In reality you only need one AME to sign you off. With that in mind if the first one says you are a no go that does not mean that its said an done. Another AME may have a different opinion and sign off on your medical. An AME may be able to give you a good feel if not a straight answer over the phone if you can accurately describe your condition. I see you have this tagged as PPL so I will assume you are going for you PPL and asking in that regard. If you are talking about an aviation career I am under the impression that some of the majors do not let you chose your own AME and may make you go to their in-house doctor. This may be an issue down the line if your local AME cleared you but the airline you eventually work for has a different opinion.

While still under debate, third class medical reform may change the playing field for all of this and you may no longer need a medical cert to fly private.

AOPA is a great resource for this kind of thing and they are one of the big parties advocating for third class reform.

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  • $\begingroup$ If you have a disqualifying condition you still cannot fly with a drivers license after the law is changed. See FAR 61.53. $\endgroup$ – wbeard52 Jun 27 '16 at 23:53

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