HIV positive pilot goes public in bid to tackle stigma

An HIV positive man who successfully challenged rules which prevented him from training as an airline pilot has decided to reveal his identity.

James Bushe had previously wanted to remain anonymous, using the pseudonym “Pilot Anthony” on Twitter to write about his battle to become a pilot.

The 31-year-old said he had decided to go public to challenge the stigma which surrounds people living with HIV.

He was not allowed to train because he could not get a medical certificate.

However, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) eventually overturned the ruling.

James has been flying alongside Loganair training captains since November but he has now completed his training to qualify to regularly fly the airline’s Embraer 145 Regional Jets from its base at Glasgow Airport.

It makes him the first newly-qualified pilot in Europe living with HIV.
The CAA’s previous interpretation of European regulations meant that pilots who were already qualified could continue to fly if they contracted HIV, subject to medical fitness.

However, a “catch 22” situation meant that a person who was HIV positive could not get the accreditation needed to be able to start the training to become a pilot.

James explained: “The reason is that the CAA considered there was a risk of that HIV positive person becoming incapacitated during the flight, potentially. That rule would also have covered other conditions, like diabetes.

“The evidence for this was studies done in the early 90s.

“Someone that is on successful treatment and living with HIV now, is undetectable. They can’t pass that virus on to others and they pose no risk to themselves or anyone around them.

“It didn’t make any sense. I wanted to challenge it.”

James, originally from Stoke-on-Trent, took that fight to the CAA and won.

It changed its rules to stop refusing to grant medical licences to people with HIV.

Instead, people with HIV will be eligible to receive a certificate that allows them to fly, but restricts them to multi-pilot operations.

The body said it was the furthest it could go until the European Aviation Safety Agency reformed its rules.