I want to FLY

Medical conditions

 
 

Clearly it is beyond the scope of these pages to answer every question relating to medical conditions and gaining a PPL or NPPL.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Medical Department website (http://www.caa.co.uk/default.aspx?catid=49 ) is very helpful, and contains a lot of information, FAQs, contacts and links to relevant sources.

 

 

Some symptoms are common across a range of conditions - continence issues and fatigue, for example. The effective management of these, and side effects of any medication used for symptomatic relief, can be a key factor in the enjoyment of a trial lesson.

Some of the more common aviator disabilities, and their implications for flight, are briefly detailed here...


Paraplegia

Licensing implications: the possibility of achieving a Private Pilots Licence is excellent in most cases, although the licence will have certain restrictions applied: for instance, the licence will include details of required adaptations, and in some cases may restrict to a particular aircraft type.

Many paraplegic pilots will achieve full independence, and should not require assistance at all. Commercial licensing is also a possibility.

Most suitable aircraft types:

Piper PA28 series fitted with a hand control. Easy to get into using the 'bum shuffle' technique up the wing.

Cessna 172: possible to fly P1 with a Union hand control. However, this aircraft is difficult to enter from a wheelchair and would require others to check the fuel levels on top of the wings.

Others will be suitable for modification, especially those without toe brakes. Individual modifications tend to be fairly expensive.

Many microlights would seem to be very readily adapted and costs would tend to be lower.

Many microlights would seem to be very readily adapted and costs would tend to be lower.

Many gliders have hand controlled rudders, and some gliding clubs are used to disabled pilots.

Cerebral Palsy

 
 

Licensing implications: the possibility of achieving a Private Pilots Licence is good in many cases.

Depending on severity, use of handbrake instead of toe brakes may be necessary. Rudder hand control adaptation may be used.

Speech impediments are no barrier.

General advice:

Can often operate rudders normally but toe brakes are difficult.
Therefore more use of handbrake may be required.

 

Amputees

Licensing implications: the possibility of achieving a Private Pilots Licence is usually excellent, in many cases without restriction.

Some amputees may have difficulty in operating toe brakes. If this is the only type of braking system to the aircraft, then below knee amputees can operate these types of braking systems after some time spent practising taxying. Otherwise there should be no particular difficulty.

Arm or hand amputation implications vary with the degree of disability, and the sophistication of prostheses.

 

Non-specific back pain

Licensing implications: the possibility of achieving a Private Pilots Licence is good.

The main problem as far as the CAA is concerned is the strength of medication used to manage the pain.

Most suitable aircraft types:

The main problem is getting in and out of the aeroplane: Piper PA28s are easier than the Cessna, but fuel checking is hard because of bending down under the wings.

 

Polio

Licensing implications: the possibility of achieving a Private Pilots Licence is usually excellent, in many cases without restriction.

Some amputees may have difficulty in operating toe brakes. If this is the only type of braking system to the aircraft, then below knee amputees can operate these types of braking systems after some time spent practising taxying. Otherwise there should be no particular difficulty.

Arm or hand amputation implications vary with the degree of disability, and the sophistication of prostheses.

 

Spina Bifida

Licensing implications: the possibility of achieving a Private Pilots Licence is good, though much will depend on the severity of the disability. Restrictions may be applied. Conditions will include details of required adaptations and, in some cases, may restrict to a particular aircraft type.

General advice:

Because of the potential for urinary tract infections, kidney stones can form and this will require regular x-rays to ensure there are no stones present.

Multiple Sclerosis

As with many other conditions, MS brings widely varying degrees of disability and rates of progression, so there can be no 'blanket' answers. Sometimes medications taken can be an issue that prevents a valid medical. However, many people with multiple sclerosis are able to fly, and hold a PPL.

Muscular Dystrophy

Licensing implications: the possibility of achieving a Private Pilots Licence in people with mild muscular dystrophy is good. However, they may expect to be tested periodically to verify sufficient muscle strength to fly the aircraft safely.

Many people fly with muscular dystrophy, however in cases of extreme muscle weakness, where breathing support is needed or the head needs constant support, then some creative thinking is required for each flight. However, it can still be done.

Hoisting is often necessary for those with the inability to self transfer. This is no problem using Aerobility technology, however it is not possible to actually hold a licence if you need the hoist. You can still learn to fly though.

Learning difficulties

Aerobility regularly flies with people with all sorts of learning difficulties, indeed it is often where we find the most natural pilots and quick learners. Whilst many people with learning difficulties may be unable to hold a pilots licence, it is conceivable that someone with a mild condition might be able to hold an NPPL on passing the relevant written and flight tests.

Some care is advised for flying people with moderate to severe learning difficulties, and care must be taken to ensure that they understand the concept of removing their hands and feet from the controls, and that they obey the instructor. It may be worth flying new individuals for the first time in a back seat.

Deafness

There are varying degrees of deafness ranging from mild hearing loss to total deafness. Some deaf people cannot speak. Each deaf person has his or her own preferred method of communication. These include sign language, lip reading and written English. Communication techniques need to be agreed with your instructor, but there should be no barrier. You can hold a PPL without using the radio and effectively fly without radio communications.

Most suitable aircraft types:

Side by side seating for ease of communication. Electronic light systems and text communications have been used successfully in tandem seated aircraft and gliders. Other communication strategies include use of mirrors and signal sticks.

Sight loss

There are many types of sight loss with varying degrees of severity, and the chances of holding a licence vary accordingly. Conditions such as monocular vision are not necessarily a barrier. Testing and flight testing really determine capability.

Even people with complete sight loss gain much from flying, and with some verbal instruction are able to sense the aircraft altitude, and use engine and airflow noise to gauge speed.