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Pilot medical rules on HIV and other conditions should be reviewed

The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) has called for a full review into medical restrictions for pilots, calling current limitations ‘outdated’.

The call from the UK pilots’ association follows a story this week about an aspiring pilot who was turned away from his dream due to his HIV status.  Similar restrictions are in place for aspiring pilots with a vast range of other conditions.

The rules apply to those entering the profession, whereas those who develop the condition after getting a medical certificate or their licence are allowed to continue their career – something which the union says is ‘nonsensical’.

BALPA would like to see a review of this policy to bring the rules up-to-date.

BALPA Head of Flight Safety, Dr Rob Hunter, said:

“Pilots who develop conditions such as HIV after getting their medical certificate or license are deemed fit to fly, but those with a pre-existing condition cannot get one.

“Essentially there is no difference in the prospective safety risk between a person that develops a condition on the day before licence issue and a person that develops that condition on the day after. This shows that this is a nonsensical approach – these conditions cannot pose an unacceptable flight safety risk one day, but not the next, and, in any case, in our view, do not at all.

“We understand much more about how these conditions can be managed since the rules were written and we’d like to see EASA (the European Aviation Safety Agency), who enforce these restrictions, undertake a thorough review.

“The only thing that should matter in becoming a pilot is ability to fly, and medicine has come so far in recent years that conditions such as HIV are extremely manageable, and those affected – as long as treated properly – can lead long and healthy lives.

“It is not medical science which is restricting these potential pilots from getting the job they dream of, but rather bureaucratic inertia.

“The current rules are outdated and we support the CAA’s (Civil Aviation Authority) calls to bring the restrictions in line with current medical understanding.”