Welcome to Diabetes Formation Flight USA 2014
Diabetes Formation Flight USA, a formation speed record by four aircraft was successfully
completed on Saturday 28 June between Lincoln, Nebraska (KLNK) and Cedar Rapids, Iowa (KIOW). All aircraft were flown by
pilots with type 1 diabetes; Douglas Cairns in a Beech Baron, Jason Harmon in a Cessna 172, Chris Isler in
another C172 and Taylor Verett and Brian Strack in a Piper Archer along with Kathryn from Illinois, also with
type 1 diabetes as a passenger in the Baron. Total time was 2 hours, 5 minutes and 15 seconds for an average
speed of just over 113 knots.
Training was held at Council Bluffs Airfield, Iowa (KCBF), over two days immediately beforehand with two flights each
day, practicing formation positions so we could all start and finish simultaneously for the speed record, and
“break to land” at Iowa City where we started the “Fly Iowa 2014” air show at noon.
Some humid Midwest weather and thunderstorms delayed training on Thursday 24th June, but on the speed record day
itself, we were lucky as heavy rain and storms cleared southwest of Lincoln, and low cloud and visibility cleared
in eastern Iowa as we headed towards Cedar Rapids. The first hour was spent in smooth and increasingly clear
conditions, but we had to descend near Omaha and carry out much of the remainder of the flight under broken cloud base at 1500 feet above ground.
As ever it was an extremely enjoyable few days together, and an excellent example of showing what can be done
with diabetes with a good system/protocol for flying in place.
Many thanks go to Amy Francis and Michelle Wilson at Lincoln Airport Tower, Tim Ryan at Omaha Approach, and
Greg Bardsley and Lawrence Darling at Cedar Rapids Approach and Tower respectively – your help was much
appreciated. Thanks also to Advanced Air Inc., at Council Bluffs Airport for help with preparations and
rental aircraft. It was also a real pleasure to have Kathryn with us for the speed record and parents Jenny
and Rick during training (who dashed by road from Council Bluffs where we launched from to Iowa City to witness
our break-to-land at Iowa City).
We look forward to next year’s project!
Until 1997, piloting by individuals with insulin treated diabetes was completely prohibited
throughout the world due to concerns of the dangers of low blood sugar during flight. With
the advances in easy to use, portable blood sugar monitoring devices, and an intensive pre and in-flight
blood sugar monitoring regimen, in 1997 pilots with well controlled insulin treated diabetes were allowed
by the FAA to obtain medical certificates for private piloting.
Several other countries have followed and in some ways surpassed the lead of the US including Canada, Great Britain,
and Australia. Canada has even allowed some pilots with insulin treated diabetes to fly commercially when
using a rigorous blood sugar monitoring procedure, and the United Kingdom has recently updated its regulations
to allow this as well.
The DFFUSA 2014 flight has several goals:
- To raise diabetes awareness and funds for diabetes research.
- To set an example for people with diabetes that tight management of their condition using a sensible management plan and modern diabetes management tools
can allow them to safely do things they may have been told or assumed were out of reach, and to encourage them to tightly manage their diabetes.
- To demonstrate that pilots with diabetes can safely fly challenging flights using the FAA’s protocol for private flying
with insulin-dependent diabetes.
- To illustrate how advances in diabetes monitoring and management make management
of diabetes in flight a straightforward, safe, and simple part of flight operations.
Diabetes need not limit the scope of people’s dreams and ambitions.