CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A group of insulin-treated diabetics believe they’re being discriminated against by the federal government since they’re not allowed to fly commercial aircraft.
“We’re disappointed in the government and the way that we’re being treated,” pilot Chris Hanrahan said.
Hanrahan, 30, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when he was 5. He said he’s never had any complications or low-blood sugar episodes that have required assistance. Still, his condition has prevented him from earning the type of license that would allow him to fly for a commercial airliner.
“If this was 30 years ago, I could understand the FAA’s stance,” Hanrahan said.
The Federal Aviation Administration used to maintain that insulin-treated diabetics were in no-case permitted to gain a license which would allow them to pilot commercial aircraft, but Hanrahan said that changed in 2015.
“You could not get anything greater than a third-class [medical certificate],” Hanrahan said. “You can go from sport pilot all the way up to airline transport license, however, not having greater than a third-class medical, you could not exercise the privileges of those higher-level licenses.”
A first and second class medical allows pilots to operate commercial.
In 2015, the FAA said it will “consider [insulin-treated diabetics] on a case-by-case basis” but at this point in time it has not approved or denied any applications.
Hanrahan said his application has been in the FAA’s hands since 2016 and nothing has been done with it.
“I think it’s because they don’t know what they’re doing,” Hanrahan said.
FOX 46 reached out to the FAA and it confirmed there have been no certifications given to insulin-treated diabetics for Class I or II medicals.
“We have not found any airman whose risk profile is sufficiently low,” an FAA spokesperson said.
The FAA said its main concern is “the risk of subtle or sudden incapacitation due to hypoglycemia.”
Hanrahan has teamed up with pilots from across the country to pursue legal action against the FAA.
“My dream is pretty much shattered,” General Aviation Awards 2018 National Certified Flight Instructor of the Year Daniel Christman said.
Christman teaches people to fly but the FAA’s stance is that since he’s a diabetic, he’s too much of a liability.
“Have you ever passed out from your condition?” FOX 46 asked Christman.
“No,” he replied.”
FOX 46 met with Novant Health’s lead endocrinologist, Dr. Adam Spitz, who said with modern-day treatment for diabetes, the concern is minimal.
“There really are no limitations on what people with Type I diabetes can do,” Spitz said. “Fly a plane, climb a mountain, scuba dive or whatever.”
Hanrahan has started a GoFundMe to help insulin-treated diabetics trying to end the discrimination. Click here to learn more and donate.