Europe’s first-ever HIV-positive pilot has taken to the skies in a commercial jet after successfully campaigning for a rule change.
James Bushe fought to be able to fulfil his dream after initially being denied a medical certificate to fly due to his condition.
But a campaign, led by charity HIV Scotland, gathered massive support and forced the Civil Aviation Authority to re-think its “discriminatory” rules.
The 31-year-old said he is “proud, totally overwhelmed and so grateful” after completing his training with Loganair and will now be flying regularly from its base at Glasgow Airport, reports StokeonTrentLive .
The Stoke-on-Trent pilot had become something of a Twitter sensation, posting about his journey using the pseudonym Pilot Anthony, but said “this is not about me” but “anyone with HIV who can now become a pilot”.
“My hope now is that it triggers action not just in the UK but in the rest of Europe,” he continued.
“Anyone who has felt restricted by the condition, who is in my situation, can now follow their dreams.
“The situation was not only discriminatory but utterly devastating to someone whose only wish since childhood was to become an airline pilot.”
James was flying planes before he was even old enough to get behind the wheel of a car, having first learnt at age 15.
He was diagnosed with HIV five years ago and was at first denied the chance to become a pilot when the CAA said it had to follow suit with the European Aviation Safety Authority.
As per the European regulator’s rules, anyone living with HIV needed a Class 1 medical certificate as well as an Operational Multi-crew Limitation to become an airline pilot.
Frustratingly, the only way to obtain that accreditation was to already have a commercial flying licence, meaning airline piloting was effectively the only profession other than the armed forces not open to HIV sufferers.
Following the much-publicised campaign. the CAA later changed the rules in the UK and granted James the necessary medical certificate.
James, now qualified to fly Embraer 145 regional jets, said anyone who has HIV but is “on a successful treatment poses no risk to flight safety and should be treated no differently”.
He has been training alongside Loganair captains since November and said he decided to forgo his anonymity to ensure the “point is emphasised to everyone”.
“There is no reason in the year 2020 why a person who is HIV-positive should face barriers in any profession,” he continued.
“Living with this condition doesn’t threaten my life or my health at all and I cannot pass HIV on to others.
“I want to put that out there to the millions of people who are living with the same fear and stigma that I was once living with.”