May 19, 2022

Two years, one month, and fourteen days ago, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes

In an instant, my life was turned upside down, and my career as an airline pilot was prematurely ended. The words “permanently medically unfit” were scribed in bold on the first letter issued by the South African Civil Aviation Authority. I was devastated. 

At the age of twenty-eight, I was too young to give up. I began researching overseas aviation legislation and soon discovered that other countries like the USA, UK, Canada, and Australia had medical protocols for pilots with Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus. I knew I needed to lean on that recognised clinical and scientific research to convince the South African regulator to let me fly again. The USA and Australia both recognise the value of Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) technology. Especially the features that can alert the user of an impending low blood glucose event. Also, the Dexcom Clarity application gives incredible “clarity” on how well the pilot’s diabetes management and control are 24/7. 

After appealing the first permanent disqualification letter, I was delighted to learn that I was declared only “temporarily medically unfit” for one year. This was the first significant success! This one-year period began in October 2020. 

During the 2021 period, I began the legislative process of bringing the International Best Practices from overseas regulators to South Africa. I submitted a proposal to the Civil Aviation Regulatory Committee and consulted industry experts over many months. In December 2021, CARCom successfully passed a Part 67 Technical Standard providing a medical protocol for Type 1 Diabetic pilots to be assessed as medically fit for a Class 1 Medical in South Africa. This was a huge accomplishment as it provided the framework for me and others like me to be assessed as medically fit to fly commercially. 

In November 2021, the one-year grounding elapsed. After sending my application in and waiting a gruelling five months, I am incredibly delighted to announce that I have been found medically fit for my Class 1 Medical! 

For the last week, emotions of joy, jubilation, and triumph have been echoing. 

What is incredibly important to acknowledge is that it would not have been possible without access to Continuous Glucose Monitoring Technology, The Dexcom G6. It changed my life and gave me back my career and dream. And for that, I will be forever grateful.

Facebook: @PilotswithDiabetesSA


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Jonathan Collins