This Article Will Change The Way You Think About HIV/AIDS & Piloting

Flying restrictions for pilots with a range of medical conditions could be lifted after the European aviation regulator announced a review aimed at relaxing the rules. Back in 2018 EASA restricts commercial pilots with HIV to multi-pilot operations

Pilots suffering from a variety of illnesses including HIV, asthma, severe allergies & cardiac illness were totally banned from taking the right or left-hand seat in the cockpits. They were strictly prohibited particularly for new trainees. There was no way for them to do anything about it. Till a recent rule change by the governing body EASA UK Civil Aviation Authority.

After pressure by the UK CAA, EASA-the body which regulates the rules around the continent decided to lift its restriction to those people living with HIV.EASA has now said it will conduct a review of how medical certificates are issued for HIV positive candidates, with a view to extending this to other medical conditions. They might have to go for medical checkups every 3-6 months, unlike other pilots who do it annually. This is to make sure that the pilot is competent and the virus does not reduce his flying performance.

Applicants who are HIV positive may be assessed as fit if a full investigation provides no evidence of HIV associated diseases that might give rise to incapacitating symptoms. Frequent review of the immunological status and neurological evaluation by an appropriate specialist should be carried out by the HIV positive patient from time to time. A cardiological evaluation may also be required, depending on the medication and severity of the illness.

The authority now wants those restrictions to be relaxed further, meaning HIV positive pilots could undertake their training in the same way cadets living without the disease currently do, including allowing them to fly solo.

Applicants with signs or symptoms of an AIDS-defining condition should be assessed as UNFIT. As a result, EASA toughened rules on pilot medicals – including adding drugs and alcohol screening, as well as a comprehensive mental health assessment.

Experts say there have been no known accidents attributed to pilots because of the virus or medication used to treat it, and those with existing medical conditions are more closely monitored than recruits with a clean bill of health.

EASA has now said it will conduct a review of how medical certificates are issued for HIV positive candidates, with a view to extending this to other medical conditions. However its better to get verified with one of the Aviation Medical Examiners.

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An HIV positive pilot in the UK has made history by becoming the first newly-qualified pilot with HIV in Europe

James Bushe, originally from Stoke-on-Trent in the Midlands, challenged the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in December 2017 to change its rules which prevented HIV positive people training and qualifying as pilots.

At the time the CAA refused him the medical certificate needed to gain a commercial license, stating that European regulations prevented it granting the certificate to someone who was HIV positive.

Speaking to the BBC, James explained:

“The reason is that the CAA considered there was a risk of that HIV positive person becoming incapacitated during the flight, potentially. That rule would also have covered other conditions, like diabetes.

“The evidence for this was studies done in the early 90s.

“Someone that is on successful treatment and living with HIV now, is undetectable. They can’t pass that virus on to others and they pose no risk to themselves or anyone around them.

“It didn’t make any sense. I wanted to challenge it.”

Eventually, due to pressure from advocacy groups like HIV Scotland and the National AIDS Trust, the CAA overturned the ruling.

James has been flying for Scottish regional airline, Loganair since November. James has now completed his training to qualify to regularly fly the airline’s Embraer 145 Regional Jets from its base at Glasgow Airport – thus becoming the first newly-qualified HIV positive pilot in Europe.

“HIV should be no barrier to anybody pursuing whatever their dreams are and becoming whatever they want to be.”

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