Welcome to Diabetes Formation Flight USA 2014

DFF 2014 Aircraft 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.

Taylor, Brian, and Jason in Flight 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.

Chris in Flight 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.

Kathryn in Douglas's Baron 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.