HIV Positive Man Becomes First Commercial Pilot Allowed to Fly a Plane

Flying for Loganair, James Bushe hopes to crush the stigma that still surrounds the disease.
Fabienne Lang
Pilot James Bushe of LoganairLoganair

HIV positive citizens of the U.K. who wish to train as pilots can now do so, largely thanks to one HIV positive man, 31-year old James Bushe. 

Bushe completed his pilot training with the Scottish airline, Loganair, and will fly the airline's Embraer 145 Regional jets

This comes after having been originally barred from training because of his HIV status. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) changed its rules in the U.K., following a campaign led by the charity, HIV Scotland. 


HIV and flying 

Since the age of 15, all Bushe wanted to be was a pilot. But because of CAA regulations that previously barred any HIV positive, among other diseases, people to fly planes, he was unable to achieve his dream.

Pilots who contracted HIV after they were already accredited could carry on flying, but it was barred to those wishing to sign up for training.

HIV Positive Man Becomes First Commercial Pilot Allowed to Fly a Plane
James Bushe in the Loganair cockpit, Source: Loganair

The CAA was bound to follow the European Aviation Safety Authority's (EASA) regulations. It stated that those living with HIV had to have a Class 1 medical certificate, including an Operational Multi-crew Limitation (OML), in order to become a pilot. 

However, that has now changed, thanks to Bushe pushing forward with his dream. 

"My hope now is that it triggers action not just in the UK but in the rest of Europe," said Bushe.

"Anyone who has felt restricted by the condition, who is in my situation, can now follow their dreams. The situation was not only discriminatory but utterly devastating to someone whose only wish since childhood was to become an airline pilot," he continued.

HIV Positive Man Becomes First Commercial Pilot Allowed to Fly a Plane
The Loganair Embraer 145 Jet that Bushe will be piloting, Source: Albert Bridge/Geograph

However, thanks to advancements in medical technology, today someone who is HIV positive and who is on successful treatment does not in fact pose any risks to others, let alone flying safety. 

Originally, Bushe was operating under the pseudonym of "Pilot Anthony", too afraid to reveal his true identity.

Now, he said, "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."

"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," added Bushe. 

In a bid to curb the stigma against those living with HIV, Bushe decided to reveal his real name. 

Dr. Ewan Hutchison, head of medical assessment at the CAA, said "We are very pleased to see James starting his career, having now finished his commercial pilot training. He has worked hard to raise awareness of the challenges faced by aspiring pilots living with HIV."

The hope now is for the EASA to open these doors to all European airlines, and hopefully, the international flying authorities will follow suit as well. 

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