Europe’s first HIV-positive pilot gets commercial license

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Europe’s first HIV-positive pilot gets commercial license

By
13 January 2020

By | 13 January 2020

“Today someone who is HIV-positive and on successful treatment poses no risk to flight safety”

Scotland’s regional carrier Loganair has just given a commercial pilot’s license to the first HIV-positive pilot in Europe.  

After years of battle to prove HIV-positive individuals should not be excluded from flying, thirty-one years old James Bushe has successfully completed his training flight to qualify. 

John Bush has become the first lincenced pilot with HIV in Europe — Loganair Europe’s first HIV-positive pilot gets commercial license Group Created with Sketch. James Bush has become the first licensed pilot with HIV in Europe — Loganair

Bushe has been flying alongside Loganair training captains since November last year. Now, he will operate regional flights on the airline’s Embraer 145 jets from Glasgow airport as co-pilot.

“Today someone who is HIV-positive and on successful treatment poses no risk to flight safety and should be treated no differently to a person who is not living with the condition,” Bushe said. 

“My hope now is that it triggers action not just in the UK but in the rest of Europe. Anyone who has felt restricted by the condition, who is in my situation, can now follow their dreams.”

HIV-positive individuals get excluded from cockpits by a real catch-22 

Bushe, who was actively describing his professional journey on an anonymous Twitter profile called Pilot Anthony, was diagnosed with HIV five years ago and has undergone successful treatment. But he had originally been denied the chance to take up a training position because of his medical status.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) their procedures followed the European Aviation Safety Authority. The rules state that HIV-positive individuals have to have a Class 1 medical certificate with an addition called an Operational Multi-crew Limitation.

But only individuals who already had pilot licenses before being diagnosed with HIV could have obtained such an addition. This creates a real catch-22 scenario that to become a pilot with HIV, one already had to be one. 

To help Bushe get to the profession he had wished for since his childhood, the HIV Scotland charity led a campaign to make the CAA change the rules in the United Kingdom. The campaign was supported by other organizations as well as politicians. 

This allowed Bushe to start an 18-month training program enabling him to fly as co-pilot.

“I’ve decided to forgo my anonymity because I believe it is important that this point is emphasized to everyone – there is no reason in the year 2020 why a person who is HIV-positive should face barriers in any profession,” Bushe added.

“Living with this condition doesn’t threaten my life or my health at all, and I cannot pass HIV on to others. I want to put that out there to the millions of people who are living with the same fear and stigma that I was once living with.”