FAA May be Changing its Thinking on Commercial Pilots With Diabetes

Currently, only some pilots with diabetes may act as PIC under Part 91.

pilots in airplane cockpit
The U.S. DOT told CNN the FAA might rethink its ban against allowing commercial pilots with diabetes to fly.Pixabay

For decades, pilots holding a first or second class medical were automatically disqualified from flying commercially if they were diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetic pilots are subject to losing consciousness and suffering seizures if their illness is not properly treated. To the FAA, the risk of a pilot passing out at the controls was always too high, though pilots can be found competent on a case-by-case basis if they operate only under Part 91. Now the DOT and the FAA may be rethinking that strategy for pilots who treat their diabetes with insulin thanks to a suit brought before the DC Circuit Court of Appeals by a pilot who believes advances in science make keeping diabetes under control is easier today than ever before.

In a CNN story last week, the Federal Air Surgeon, Michael Berry said, “Recent advances in technology and diabetes medical science have allowed the FAA to develop an evidence-based protocol that can both identify a subset of low-risk applicants whose glycemic stability is sufficiently controlled and also ensure these pilots can safely maintain diabetic control for the duration of a commercial flight.”

Official word from the FAA about this decision could be made public this week. Both the Air Line Pilots Association and the American Diabetes Association believe the judgment in favor of certain diabetic pilots is long overdue.