Pilots with diabetes allowed to fly commercial aircraft

Friday 31 August 2012

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has announced that qualified pilots and air traffic controllers with diabetes treated with insulin and other medications can carry out full operation duties including flying commercial aircraft.

Licensed pilots and air traffic controllers, who have diabetes, will need to demonstrate good overall control of their condition before gaining medical qualifications to fly. Pilots with diabetes have already been able to fly recreationally since 2002, but the new policy allows full private flying privileges once medical requirements are met.

"Important decision"

Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said, "We welcome this important decision by the CAA to issue medical certificates to pilots and air traffic controllers with diabetes.

"The CAA has rightly acknowledged that advances in the management of diabetes, along with the appropriate level of testing and monitoring, ensure that safety standards are maintained.

"The decision will be of huge benefit to the many qualified pilots and air traffic controllers who until now have not been able to fully participate in their chosen field."

"Significant advances"

Karen Addington, Chief Executive of JDRF said, "Over recent years significant advances have been made with regard to controlling Type 1 diabetes and its associated complications, which have helped make the condition more manageable. The CAA has recognised this and, subject to rigorous monitoring and testing regimes, personnel will now be able to carry out their duties unrestricted."

"A very positive step"

Douglas Cairns (pictured right) is a former RAF pilot instructor and holder of 12 aviation speed records. Speaking on behalf of the group Pilots With Diabetes, who were formed in 2007 to promote flying with insulin treated diabetes, Douglas said, "The UK is now understood to be the second country in the world – after Canada – to enable commercial flying with diabetes, and is the only country to enable both commercial flying and full private flying privileges.

"There have been positive developments for recreational flying with diabetes already over the last 10 years in the UK. It is now a very positive step for pilots with diabetes, and indeed people with diabetes, to see the introduction of both commercial and full private flying opportunities here in the UK."

Guidance information will shortly be issued by the CAA to pilots and air traffic controllers setting out the new procedures. This includes the details of operational restrictions and in-flight testing regimes.

UK Diabetes Formation Flight

This announcement coincides with the UK Diabetes Formation Flight, which is to be led by Douglas on Saturday 1 September. The flight will see six pilots with insulin-treated diabetes set off from Nottingham Airport and aim to set a new national formation speed record from Derby to Southampton.

For almost two hours, the pilots will fly six aircraft along a flightpath in the form of a 'D', passing over six villages and towns whose first letters will sequentially spell the word 'diabetes', before finally landing at Goodwood (Chichester) Airport.

The villages and towns are: Derby, Ibstock, Ashton Flameville (near Hinckley), Buckingham, Emmington (hamlet near Thame), Twyford, Earley (by Reading), Southampton (Airport).

More information on the UK Diabetes Formation Flight.