Some year-and-a-half ago my physician recommended that I take a sleep study. Some preliminary exam (overnight finger-carried monitor) indicated that a few times per night my oxygen level dips below 91% (and one time below 81%). He indicated that this might be caused by sleep apnea. I ignored that recommendation as my sleeping had improved and I didn't want to spend money and time on the full-blown sleep study. Six months after that I started my PPL training. As it was not an issue, I didn't even think about it when I got my 3rd Class med certificate.

My soon-to-be-ex wife had recently found my old correspondence with my doctor and, out of pure vindictiveness, denounced me to the FAA. I received a letter giving me 60 days for addressing this issue. Here are my questions:

  1. Does anyone at this forum has a mild case of sleep apnea and is still flying (i.e. has a valid third class med)?
  2. Is the dip in the oxygen intake an 'sure proof' of sleep apnea?
  3. Are there any other types of SA than Obstructive SA that are not viewed as dangerous by the authorities (the regs specifically mention OSA)?
  4. Is there any recommended treatment that may still make the med cert possible even if I have a mild case of SA?
  • $\begingroup$ Did you read the FAA guidance on OSA/Sleep Apnea? You'll need to get a Special Issuance to continue flying, which isn't impossible, but you need to be working with an AME. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Sep 6, 2018 at 20:25

2 Answers 2


The short answer to your question is yes, you can get a third-class medical with sleep apnea in some cases:

If your OSA is treatable, you can maintain your airman medical certificate and continue to enjoy your aviation career.

Everything else in your question is very personal and specific, and the only way to get an answer for your individual case is to consult an AME, preferably one who's handled similar cases before.


I know two professional pilots who's medicals were revoked but got them back after mastering sleeping using a CPAP machine and demonstrating compliance with the requirements. Their Apnea diagnosis was based on the number of breathing-stop events measured by a breathing monitor (not more than once or twice a night if I recall). The problem is mostly that Apnea events cause deprivation of REM sleep and result in severe fatigue, while the person is unaware of the constant sleep interruptions because they don't fully wake up and think they are sleeping fine.

One of the pilots is a good friend and went to the doctor because he thought he was sleeping ok but was dog tired all the time and couldn't understand why. He had to sleep with a monitor and when it showed numerous events he was grounded immediately (about a year ago) but is now flying again after mastering the CPAP. He said the sheer joy of getting a good night's sleep made it easy to put up with the CPAP mask once he got used to it.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you very much for your very informative answers. This very painful for me not only because of the impact on flying, but on the more personal level (the vindictive attitude on the part of the person who denounced me). I'm rarely tired, or sleepy during the day, so I hope, this all end well. $\endgroup$
    – Piotrpaw
    Sep 7, 2018 at 14:31

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