American Diabetes Association® Celebrates Cockpit Doors Opening for People with Diabetes with Publication of New Federal Aviation Administration Protocol

Press release
American Diabetes Association® Celebrates Cockpit Doors Opening for People with Diabetes with Publication of New Federal Aviation Administration Protocol
Arlington, Virginia

ADA’s advocacy removes barriers so people with insulin-treated diabetes can fly commercial planes

Today, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) applauds the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for announcing a protocol for pilots with insulin-treated diabetes to obtain the type of certificate needed for commercial flight. In 1959, the FAA banned pilots who use insulin from commercial operations, so today’s move marks a historic day for people with diabetes. 

“After many years of fighting for the rights of pilots with diabetes at every turn, we are pleased to have broken down a barrier that stood in place since 1959,” said John Griffin, past chair of ADA’s Board of Directors and member of ADA’s Legal Advocacy Subcommittee. “Finally, children with diabetes are free to dream of growing up to be airline pilots.” 

ADA’s position is that blanket bans against people with diabetes are never medically or legally appropriate. People with diabetes should always be given individual assessment of their qualifications and medical condition. 

In 2010, the ADA began educating the FAA about the advances in diabetes medicine and treatment that make it possible to identify insulin-treated pilots who can safely fly. Over the course of the past decade, the ADA has continuously educated, negotiated with, and ultimately supported litigation all geared toward convincing the FAA that it is medically appropriate to grant individual assessment to commercial pilots treated with insulin. The ADA met with the FAA, brought industry stakeholders to the table, convened a panel of expert endocrinologists to provide recommendations, engaged members of Congress and filed friend-of-the-court briefs in litigation brought by pilots to challenge FAA inaction. 

Today, thanks to the dedication of tireless ADA healthcare professional, attorney, and pilot volunteers and staff, the FAA has finished the work it promised pilots in 2015. Countless volunteers contributed to this victory, but in particular, former American Airlines Captain Eric Friedman, whose devotion to the cause of justice is extraordinary. Thanks to these volunteers and their sacrifices, people with diabetes have one fewer hurdle to overcome.

The ADA looks forward to working with the FAA to implement this protocol so that properly qualified insulin-treated pilots are granted medical certificates and eagerly awaits the day the first pilot treated with insulin is cleared to fly a commercial plane.

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About the American Diabetes Association
Every day more than 4,000 people are newly diagnosed with diabetes in America. Nearly 115 million Americans have diabetes or prediabetes and are striving to manage their lives while living with the disease. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) is the nation’s leading voluntary health organization fighting to bend the curve on the diabetes epidemic and help people living with diabetes thrive. For nearly 80 years the ADA has been driving discovery and research to treat, manage and prevent diabetes, while working relentlessly for a cure. We help people with diabetes thrive by fighting for their rights and developing programs, advocacy and education designed to improve their quality of life. Diabetes has brought us together. What we do next will make us Connected for Life. To learn more or to get involved, visit us at diabetes.org or call 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383). Join the fight with us on Facebook (American Diabetes Association), Twitter (@AmDiabetesAssn) and Instagram (@AmDiabetesAssn).