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Transport Canada changes diabetes policy

The first Canadian with pre-existing, insulin-dependent diabetes has been awarded the medical certificate required to have a commercial pilot license. Diabetes Canada explains Austen McDonald of Edmonton, Alberta, who received the certificate, and his father, Captain Ed McDonald, have been advocating for years for Transport Canada to make a change to their policies to allow this.


February 25, 2019
By Wings Staff

“Up until now, pilots who already had their commercial license when they became insulin-dependent could apply for a medical certificate to keep flying,” said Ed McDonald. “But no one who already was on insulin could do the same. It really made no sense to us.”
 
Canada has been a world-leader for over 15 years in allowing commercial pilots to continue flying while taking insulin for their diabetes, explains Diabetes Canada, and has amassed thousands of hours of flying time without any diabetes-related safety incidents.
 
“There’s really no way to judge the ability of an individual to control their blood sugar based only on the age at which they developed diabetes,” saiod Dr. Peter Senior, endocrinologist at the University of Alberta and chair of Diabetes Canada’s Professional Section. “There was no medical justification for preventing people with diabetes from applying for the certificate needed to get their commercial pilot license when hundreds of people who were already pilots when they developed diabetes continue to fly safely.”
 
Canada’s safety record and the McDonalds’ advocacy – supported by Diabetes Canada – encouraged Transport Canada to reconsider and ultimately amend their practices.
 
“Diabetes Canada is pleased to see that this last barrier to Canadians with diabetes applying to become commercial pilots has been removed,” said Dr. Jan Hux, president and CEO of Diabetes Canada. “The risks associated with a person with insulin-dependent diabetes piloting a plane must be assessed on a case-by-case basis, and we commend this important action by Transport Canada in now considering all pilots with diabetes, regardless of age of onset.”
 
Austen McDonald could not be happier. “All I’ve ever wanted to be was a pilot. Now nothing is standing in my way,” said Austen McDonald, as the first beneficiary of what Diabetes Canada describes as a ground-breaking change in policy.