31-year-old HIV+ British man challenges rules to qualify as commercial pilot
London, Jan 14: A British man with HIV has qualified as a commerical airline pilot after successfully challenging European aviation rules that prevent people with the virus from learning to fly.
James Bushe, from central England, is thought to be the first HIV positive candidate to have completed his training and been given the green light to take off, and made his maiden flight at the weekend.
The 31-year-old successfully convinced the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to change the rules in Britain to grant him the medical certificate required to fly following an initial denial. The CAA had said Britain was bound to follow the rules laid down by the European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) which stopped it issuing the certificate to HIV-positive applicants.
Bushe claimed that interpretation was discriminatory and, with the support of the charity HIV Scotland and later the Scottish government, it eventually relented. "I'm overwhelmed by all of the messages of love and support that I've woken up to today," he wrote on Twitter on Monday after news of his first solo flight emerged. "I want to get the message out there that HIV has changed.
That nobody should face discrimination on the basis of their status." Bushe, who was diagnosed with the virus five years ago, began learning to fly small aircraft from the age of 15. In 2017, Bushe revealed to the BuzzFeed News website that he had been blocked from accepting his place on an easyJet pilot training course because of the CAA's interpretation of the EASA rules.
After the authority altered its stance, he was able to train to fly for Loganair and since November has been co-piloting alongside training captains. But Bushe is now fully qualified to regularly fly the airline's Embraer 145 regional jets, and completed his first flight single-handedly -- from Glasgow to Stornoway -- on Saturday. He will regularly fly from the airline's base at Glasgow Airport.
Loganair chief executive Jonathan Hinkles said: "Before James completed his training we had 270 excellent pilots. We now have 271. "HIV is not a bar to employment in other industries and there is no reason why it should be so in aviation."