Keen pilot Karl in diabetes flight record

Karl Beetson
Karl Beetson

A keen pilot helped set a new national flight record to celebrate a ruling enabling pilots with insulin-treated diabetes to fly commercially and privately.

Karl Beetson, 23, of Torrington Way, Wellingborough, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2007.

He was one of a team of six pilots who set a new national formation speed record between Derby and Southampton.

The team also included Damian Fessey, 43, from London, George Duncan, 40, from Marlow, Matt Ponsford, 18, from West Sussex, and James D’Arcy, 45, from Newbury.

They have all either lost professional flying careers on diagnosis of diabetes or previously had restrictions applied to flying activities or career ambitions.

They are also all part of a group, Pilots With Diabetes, which was formed in 2007 to promote flying with insulin-treated diabetes.

Karl, who is pursuing a career in medicine, said: “I was very pleased to take part. It is a unique record as it is the first one of its kind to be set in the UK. The new ruling has been a long time coming and it will make a difference to a lot of people; not only pilots and air traffic controllers who have lost their jobs, but also young people with diabetes who are aspiring to be pilots.”

The speed record saw the team fly from Derby Airfield to Southampton Airport in one hour, 22 minutes and 38 seconds.

It coincided with a recent announcement by the UK Civil Aviation Authority which has introduced a new policy enabling pilots with insulin treated diabetes to fly commercially and privately.

The UK is now understood to be the second country in the world to enable commercial flying with diabetes and is the only country to enable both commercial flying and full private flying privileges. Pilots need to demonstrate good overall control of diabetes before gaining a medical qualification to fly.

Diabetic pilot Douglas Cairns, who led the formation flight, said: “UK diabetes formation flight is the first speed record of its kind in the UK and it’s very exciting to have done this so soon after the new policy announcement for flying with diabetes.”