A UK man has become the first HIV-positive pilot of a commercial airline.
31-year-old James Bushe from Stoke-on-Trent has completed his training with Longanair and will now fly jets from the airline’s Glasgow Airport base, according to Metro. What makes this a triumph is the fact that Bushe was denied the chance earlier because of his HIV status.
According to the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) rules presented by European regulator known as the European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA), people living with HIV were restricted from flying unless under special circumstances. Those circumstances included having a Class 1 medical certificate, with an addition called an Operational Multi-crew Limitation or OML. The only way to get this accreditation would be to already have a commercial flying license that allowed training as a co-pilot alongside a training captain.
Thankfully, Bushe was aided by the charity HIV Scotland. The organization pressured the CAA to change its rules. Because of this, Bushe was granted the medical certificate necessary for flying making him the first person to earn a pilot’s license under the new CAA guidelines.
In 2017, Bushe revealed to BuzzFeed News that he had been blocked from accepting his place on an easyJet pilot training course because the CAA’s interpretation of the rules concerning HIV-positive applicants — as laid down by its European regulator, EASA — forbade it. At the time, he decided to remain anonymous and was referred to only as Anthony. – buzzfeed
“I feel incredibly proud and privileged to be in this position,” Bushe told BuzzFeed News. “There was a point in time when I didn’t think it was going to be possible.” Bushe then talked about goals for the future, “My hope now is that it triggers action not just in the UK but in the rest of Europe.”
The pilot also notes the importance of moments like this for equality and anti-discrimination.
“Anyone who has felt restricted by the condition, who is in my situation, can now follow their dreams,” he expressed. “The situation was not only discriminatory but utterly devastating to someone whose only wish since childhood was to become an airline pilot.”
Meanwhile, Loganair executive chief Jonathan Hinkles said, “HIV is not a bar to employment in other industries and there is no reason why it should be so in aviation.”