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Man’s HIV-Positive Status Prevents Him from Becoming Pilot

An IT specialist at the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center flies a Boeing 737-800NG simulator with Aurora’s ALIAS technology demonstration system as his co-pilot. (PRNewsfoto/Aurora Flight Sciences)

The man, known only as Anthony, has applied for his license but has been refused by the CAA. He his currently appealing against the ruling.

An HIV-positive British man has been told that he will not be able to become a commercial airline pilot due to his current medical status, BuzzFeed News reports. The outlet reports that the man, referred to only as Anthony, has been attempting to obtain his pilot’s license, but has had his application refused by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the body responsible for regulating commercial aviation in the United Kingdom.

The man has accused the CAA of discrimination and told the outlet that the body’s decision has “destroyed a boyhood dream.” He has spent six months unsuccessfully attempting to appeal the CAA’s decision, which in itself is based on regulations set by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Under the current rules, an HIV-positive status prevents would-be pilots from obtaining a license. However, current qualified and serving pilots who may contract the virus may continue to work.

Anthony has described the current situation as a “catch-22.” However, it was only in 2014 that HIV-positive candidates were able to apply for a medical certificate known as an “operational multi-crew limitation (OML).” This documentation would have allowed HIV-positive pilots to fly, providing they weren’t undertaking solo flights.

However, it appears that, between Anthony’s positive diagnosis in 2014 and the present, CAA rules pertaining to HIV-positive pilots have changed.

“The CAA’s new policy was that only people who already held a commercial license with a standard medical certificate could obtain the multi-crew limitation. Those with HIV are unable to get the standard medical certificate to get the license to then apply for the limitation,” the outlet states.

Speaking of his case to the outlet, Anthony said, “It has had a fundamental impact. It means the one career choice I want to make and want to do, I’m being told no, and the cause of that is because I’m HIV-positive. It has destroyed a boyhood dream for me. It makes it difficult to accept the [HIV] diagnosis because you want to believe there are no restrictions to you, but actually there are.”

Comments are Closed.
WillTravel4Food December 15, 2017

There's a lot of misunderstanding going on in these comments. I cannot speak about non-US CAAs, I don't know their medical standards. The FAA might be a better option. The candidate pilot could go to the US and do his/her training there. Many foreign nationals do just that. In many cases it's because it's far cheaper. First thing, anyone in the US with this situation should contact the FAA, Office of Aerospace Medicine, Aeromedical Certification Division and receive guidance on what's possible. They'd be the source of real information. This applies to anybody who might be concerned about meeting the medical standards, regardless of their specific illness. Do they certify HIV positive? Yes, but I don't know the limitations. There are conditions that are automatic denials. HIV is not one of them. But make sure you ask about the standards for the type of pilot you want to become. ATP have stricter standards than GA pilots. Lastly, there's a perception out there that lots of people are outright denied. This is a falsehood. I've seen the data. Talk to the FAA, or your country's CAA, and get the facts about your specific case.

downinit December 14, 2017

There is a painfully obvious disparity here between acute conditions like heart disease and chronic conditions like HIV. AFAIK, HIV does not increase the chance that the pilot will suffer an incapacitating episode during a flight, unlike someone prone to a seizure or heart attack. Any HIV-related illness is a slow moving and chronic ailment that will not happen during a flight, but slowly intensify over several months. This a draconian overreaction from a time of great fear and ignorance.

madbrain December 14, 2017

This is ridiculous. HIV is a manageable condition nowadays. It is nothing like being diabetic. And yes, I speak as an HIV positive person. You take your pills once or twice a day, and get a checkup every 3 to 6 months. In the US, this prohibition would not be allowed under ADA . There is obviously no medical reason for the CAA to do so since they allow current pilots who contract HIV to continue their career. There is no logic to it whatsoever.

respawn December 14, 2017

Unpopular opinion, but HIV positive pilots aren't the only ones with significant restrictions or hoops to jump through. For example, insulin dependent diabetics are unable to obtain a commercial pilots license, even if well controlled. Same goes for people diagnosed with coronary heart disease. Frankly speaking, it sounds like he needs to learn to come to terms with the fact that with his diagnosis, there will be certain restrictions in life. It sucks, but life isn't fair. I'm not saying this without sympathy. I'm saying this as an aviation enthusiast with a different health diagnosis that would prevent me from becoming a pilot. I deal with it. Welcome to the real world where we can't all live out our dreams.

UVU Wolverine December 14, 2017

It sounds like the pilot better find a different choice in career or move to a place that accepts pilot medicals for people who have HIV. I don't think the empathetic argument that it "ruins a boyhood dream" is valid here as most people do not get to fulfill their childhood dreams one way or another. I obviously don't know the circumstances in how HIV became a part of this pilot's life, but pilot medical standards are extremely strict across the world.