Have you dreamed of flying like a bird high up in the clear blue sky, but you have diabetes? You are probably wondering, can a diabetic become a pilot? We are going to explore the answer to that question in this article.
Will Diabetes Prevent You from Getting Your Pilot’s License?
There are several factors that must be taken into consideration if you are a diabetic, and you want to fly a plane. In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is the only licensing authority. They handle all pilot licenses. They grant certain privileges to pilots that are completely dependent on the pilot’s fitness. Special protocols are in place for those who suffer from type 1 and type 2 diabetes, including those who are classified as pre-diabetic or have some other metabolic syndrome.
Pilot License Levels
- Level 3 Medical Certificate: If you plan on flying your own private plane then you will need a level 3 medical certificate. Diabetes sufferers can receive a license to pilot a plane if they show that they have controlled their blood glucose levels for at least six months. However, they must also qualify for some pre-flight and in-flight procedures. Individuals with insulin pumps can also get this license.
- Level 2 Medical Certificate: With a level 2 medical certificate you can fly commercial planes with some limited privileges. If you are diagnosed with diabetes (either 1 or 2) then you cannot possess this license if you are insulin dependent.
- Level 1 Medical Certificate: Level 1 offers the greatest privileges to pilots of commercial planes. If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, then you cannot possess a level one pilot’s license if you require insulin.
There is a special medical certificate that lets some perform as pilots, but a waiver is required that must be issued by the FAA. Interestingly, a pilot must undergo regular health exams to maintain their license and it is at the physical that they discover they have diabetes or some health-related problem.
Medications and Diabetes
If you do not take insulin to control your diabetes but instead use some other medication to maintain your blood glucose levels, then you must show proof that you are successfully controlling your condition for at least 60 days. The certificate enables medical level 2 or 3 certificates. If you experience a change in your health situation then you must immediately refrain from flying until you again get your condition under control. Many metabolic syndromes fall into this category such as impaired glucose tolerance, glucose intolerance, impaired fasting glucose, pre-diabetes, and insulin resistance.
Diet and Medical Certification
Many people strive to control their type 2 diabetes using diet. You can receive a medical certificate for flight if you show that you have managed to control your glucose using only a stringent diet. However, if you cannot show the results then you might have a hard time getting flight clearance.
If you suffer from diabetes insipidus then you’ll need to follow the FAA’s special protocol. You’ll be required to submit all medical information and a list of medications that you are taking. The FAA will then evaluate the case to determine if you are fit to fly.
Can you Fly if You Suffer from Diabetes?
You can obtain a third-class medical certificate by getting a special issuance. It will allow you to fly private, fly as a student, recreational operations, and flight instructor/sports pilot. Please remember to obtain this license you must have your diabetes under stable control. Sadly, not everyone on insulin will achieve this.
Diabetes and A1C
Your A1C must be maintained at less than 9 percent. You should show no diabetes complications and there must be no signs of low blood sugar.
Level 3 Exceptions
If you have diabetes, then you can obtain an exception to fly for compensation by acting as what is referred to as a Certified Flight Instructor. This is the only exception for diabetics at this level.
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