New research presented at the Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) has demonstrated an innovative new safety protocol which has enabled people living with insulin-dependent diabetes to work safely as commercial airline pilots, something previously not possible due to the safety-critical nature of the job. The risk of hypoglycaemia in people with insulin-treated diabetes has for many years disqualified them from working in certain ‘safety-critical’ jobs, including flying commercial airliners and driving public transport buses.
The safety procedure involves a “traffic light” system which classifies blood glucose levels (BGLs) as “acceptable” (green), “caution” (amber), or “immediate action required” (red) – which would alert the pilot to immediately hand over duties to the co-pilot. BGLs are tested before and during the flight (hourly and 30 minutes pre-landing) and compared with ranges specified within the protocol.
The joint study was conducted by scientists and industry professionals in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Austria. The protocol has been introduced in these countries, who now have the largest number of commercial pilots with insulin-treated diabetes in the world.