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Deaf pilot passes instrument checkride

Deaf pilot passes instrument checkride

Click for larger image
AOPA member Stephen Hopson, first deaf pilot
to earn an instrument rating, and American
Winds Flight Academy Chief Pilot Denise Hobart.
Click for larger image

Stephen Hopson, AOPA 3553985, on February 24 became the first instrument-rated deaf pilot. Hopson, 45, has logged more than 700 hours and already holds a commercial certificate with the standard restriction for deaf pilots: no flight operations where two-way radio communications are required.

As many instrument students would attest, half the challenge of IFR flight centers around understanding air traffic control clearances. But Hopson, with American Winds Flight Academy instructor Jason Edwards, worked out a white-board system (using shorthand) allowing Edwards to relay ATC instructions to Hopson while they navigate the airways.

Following negotiation and cooperation with the FAA, Hopson took his checkride with a designated examiner and now has an instrument rating that allows him to fly with a hearing pilot using the white-board system.

Hopson hopes to pave the way for other deaf pilots to log pilot-in-command time in the IFR environment, and perhaps someday, if controller-pilot communications datalink (CPCDL) matures, a deaf pilot could solo in the clouds.

February 28, 2006

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