HIV positive man 'elated' at opportunity to become commercial pilot

An HIV positive man is "elated" he will be able to pursue his dream of training as a commercial pilot after aviation chiefs changed the rules.

The man, from Glasgow, had not been able to take up a training place with easyJet because his HIV status prevented him from obtaining the required medical certificate.

However, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has now changed its rules so that having the infection is not a bar to obtaining the class one medical certificate which commercial pilots need to have, provided applicants pass their medical assessment.

They will be eligible for a medical certificate with a "multi-pilot operations" restriction, meaning there needs to be another pilot in the cockpit with them.

The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, said he was "elated" at the change, which will let him pursue his dream.

He said: "I'm absolutely over the moon that they have been able to act so quickly to give a short-term solution and commit to the long-term change of the rules.

"When I was first diagnosed with HIV people make a point of telling you HIV should not be a barrier to you doing anything you want to do, but for me it was.

"For a long time I've been thinking HIV is a barrier to the way I want to live my dream but because of this rule change the barrier has gone and the dream can be pursued."

His training place with easyJet has been extended until June and the 29-year-old plans to take it up as soon as possible.

An Easyjet plane taking off (Peter Byrne/PA)
An Easyjet plane taking off (Peter Byrne/PA)

Announcing the rule change, CAA chief executive Andrew Haines said: "In relation to HIV, we have made representations to the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which is the governing body responsible for medical standards, and asked them to undertake the necessary rulemaking activity and associated research without delay, that we hope will lead to a permanent change to the current regulations.

"We recognise that this research will take time and we will continue to offer our full support to this work in any way we can.

"In the meantime, the CAA will issue initial class one medical certificates with a restriction to multi-pilot operations to applicants wishing to become commercial pilots, subject to the applicants passing their class one medical assessment."

The man, who tweets using the name Anthony, started flying at the age of 15, gained his private pilot's licence at the age of 17 and had a lifelong dream of becoming a commercial pilot.

He was diagnosed with HIV around four years ago and was devastated when he discovered last year that he could not get the necessary medical certificate.

He said he is "absolutely elated" that the rules have now changed.

Overwhelmed, shocked, elated and humbled. Words alone can't express my gratitude to @nathansparkling@HIVScotland@PatrickStrud@BBCAndrewBlack@BritishHIVAssoc@beckshuss for their support. Let's share the great news and let EVERY HIV+ aspiring pilot in the UK, FLY

-- Anthony (@PilotAnthonyGLA) January 18, 2018

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling announced the news at the House of Commons on Thursday.

He said: "Today the rules are being changed. Whilst I cannot give a certain outcome to an individual case, this will mean that people who suffer from conditions that make it difficult for them to become commercial pilots will find it easier to do so as the Civil Aviation Authority I think are taking a more sensible approach to this matter."

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