Wish me luck

Well I just sent off my annual physical to the powers that be for my license as a ships' pilot. The first year since insulin it went through without a hitch, although it was the source of a tremendous amount of stress and uncertainty leading up to it. I'm hoping now that they have evaluated it once, it should be a rubber stamp type of deal now and each year hereafter... but there is really no way to know what to expect. I do know that I'm very good at what I do for a living, and that taking insulin to stay healthy hasn't changed that whatsoever, which my doctor will attest to... So I'm optimistic, but its a stressful time, and will be each year until I hear back about it. So wish me luck.

Good luck, I'm sure everything will go well :)

I'm sure too that they recognize your ability and that being on insulin does not negatively impact your functioning at all. But I do understand the anxiety. When will you hear?

I am on your side !!! ...good mantra coming your way from beautiful BC, Canada ...a few hopscotches away from your Alaska !!

All the best and good luck to you, Sam.

Good luck from me in Western Australia.

good luck sam!

You certainly have approached diabetes with the skill and precision needed to manage it extremely well. I have to presume you are the same way with your nautical endeavors and hope that it goes well for you. I am not a huge fan of relying on luck but the force is with you, always!

Sending good energy your way. Let us know when it comes through without a hitch again ;)

Best of luck Sam!!

I wish you the best. Your story inspires!

Best of luck...I understand the anxiety as I went through something similar this year getting the medical certificate for my private (airplane) pilot's license renewed.
Although in my case it is a hobby and not how I earn my living.

As you say, the first time was the most critical and hopefully it will go more smoothly this time.

Thanks everyone. I’d be really interested to hear some details about how the process went with the private pilot license. I’ve been interested in getting one since I was a kid… Having one up here in Alaska opens up a whole lot of the world…

So, in order to use a private pilot's license, you need to have a valid FAA Class 3 medical certificate.

This is a very basic medical exam to make sure you don't have any heart problems, aren't on any medications that could interfere with your thinking or disable you, and can hear and see adequately. The hearing test is basically to make sure you can hear someone speaking softly on the other side of the room and the eye test is basically 20/40 near and far vision - with contacts or eyeglasses if needed.

Use of insulin to treat diabetes requires a "special issuance" medical certificate (basically an exception process) from FAA Medical headquarters.
You have to show that your diabetes is well controlled. You cannot have had any hypoglycemic incidence requiring assistance from someone else in the past year - and definitely cannot have passed out. That is what they are most concerned about with insulin - that you could pass out at the controls. You have to have a letter from your treating physician that documents this. You have to have had a dilated eye exam and have no active eye disease or eye complications fromn the diabetes. You have to have a cardiac stress test (ECG while on a treadmill) and the interpretation and original tracings have to go to the FAA Aeromedical office. This is to make sure you dont have any heart disease.

The whole package has to be sent to the FAA for approval. If they are satisfied, you will get a letter than lets you go to a local FAA Aviation Medical Examiner for the standard physical. If you pass that you get a medical certificate good for 1 year. To renew it , you have to go to your endo or other treating physician every quarter throughout the year and then and the end of the year he/she has to write another letter to the FAA stating that you remain in good control, have not had a hypoglycemic episode needing assistance, etc.

You have to test your BG before takeoff, every hour in flight, and 20 minutes before landing. It has to be in the range 100-300 mg/dl. If below 100, you have to eat a snack of 20 grams of glucose. If over 300, you must land at the nearest airport and not resume flight until it is within the range 100-300.

Note that these ranges are not particularly tight. They are more interested in your not passing out than your long term health.

There is a good book about an RAF fighter pilot who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes while in the service and kicked out. He thought he would never fly again. Then he found out about the US license program for diabetics, got certified, and flew around the world. Here is his web site :


THe book is called Dare to Dream: Flying Solo with Diabetes.

Unfortunately, commercial flying is not allowed in the US for diabetics on insulin. There are some T1 commercial airline pilots in Canada, but I believe they have to have a non-diabetic pilot with them.