Insulin Dependent Pilots Fly Free

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By: Melissa Sattley

Insulin dependent pilots are now free to fly anywhere they choose in the United States. Due to increased pressure from the American Diabetes Association, a 37-year blanket ban against pilots with insulin-treated diabetes has been lifted by the Federal Aviation Association(FAA).

For many years, pilots with diabetes who rely on oral medications have been able to apply for a waiver qualifying for medical certification. However, those with insulin dependent diabetes have been categorically denied permission to fly.

The ADA has been pressuring the FAA to change their policy against insulin dependent pilots since 1991. Joining the ADA in this campaign is the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), based in Frederick, Maryland.

Finally the tide has turned. Under a new policy, which went into effect on December 23, 1996, third-class pilots with insulin dependent diabetes are now eligible to apply for a special medical certification that allows them to operate a private plane anywhere within United States airspace. To obtain certification, pilots must meet strict medical guidelines. They must have well managed diabetes with fewer than two severe hypoglycemic reactions within the last five years. This new policy is limited to student, recreational and private pilot operations.

“The diligent efforts of individuals and our respective organizations, combined with a progressive attitude in the Federal Air Surgeon’s office, make this a huge step in the medical certification of airmen,” said the AOPA’s director of medical certifications, Gary E. Crump, in a recent ADA news release. “We’re hopeful the FAA will approve even a small number of qualified individuals as soon as possible so a database can be established to follow these airmen, with the hope that the policy can someday be expanded to include all classes of medical certification.”

For more information about obtaining medical certification contact:

Tina Lombard
Aeromedical Standards Branch (AAM-210)
FAA Office of Aviation Medicine
800 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20591
Phone: (202) 267-9655, or
fax: (202) 267-5399.

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