Get extra lift from AOPA. Start your free membership trial today! Click here


Heart disease, diabetes, cancer: Fight back, stay in the air

Pilots who face life-threatening diseases are hit not only with the fight to regain their health and learn a new way of living, but also nagging thoughts of the possibility of losing their livelihood or hobby—flying.

AOPA answers calls from members every week who are battling cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or other medical conditions and are scared that they’ll never be able to fly again or have to sell their beloved aircraft and switch to flying light sport aircraft as a sport pilot. The association helps members work through the FAA certification process to get their medicals back. But there are steps that pilots can take to avoid some medical conditions.

During AOPA Aviation Summit, Nov. 11 through 13 in Long Beach, Calif., pilots can learn how to prevent certain medical conditions, live a healthier life, and work through the special issuance medical process should a condition arise.

AOPA’s medical consultant, Dr. Jonathan Sackier, a surgeon and instrument-rated private pilot, will host “Fly Well Health Topic” forums each morning at 8 a.m. in the Convention Center about heading off heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other conditions that could cause you to lose your medical. During the three-day event, he’ll also cover tips for handling medical emergencies in the air and eating, drinking, and breathing properly in the cockpit. You do not need to register for these free educational forums.

Dr. Warren Silberman, manager of the FAA’s Aerospace Medical Certification Division, will give pilots a glimpse of medical certification from the inside in “Medical Certification from the FAA’s Perspective” at 10 a.m. on Nov. 12, and AOPA Director of Medical Certification Gary Crump will talk about the special issuance medical process at 11:30 a.m. on Nov. 11. In “What’s so Special about Special Issuance?” Crump will discuss the regulatory basis for special issuance, and what it takes to get one. Anyone with cancer, coronary artery disease, bypass surgery, pacemakers, stents, diabetes, asthma, and kidney stones (to name a few) will need a special issuance medical.

Another critical piece of pilots’ medical history is vision. Vision technology and research continues to advance, and the FAA is on the leading edge of this technology that includes new refractive correction procedures and devices, along with new research data that can have positive implications for younger pilots as well as those in the aging population. Find out how the FAA views these technologies in “Seeing through the FAA’s Eyes: A Better Vision for Pilots” on Nov. 13 with Dr. Van Nakagawara, an FAA research optometrist.

In “Keep Young and Fly Forever,” on Nov. 11 and 12, Janet Lapp, a flight instructor, psychologist, author, and motivational humorist, will work pilots through a high-energy program learning the top five brain skills needed to operate at peak performance and how to test yourself. Lapp is also an FAA aviation safety counselor; a member of the FAA Safety Team; a contributor to the National Association of Flight Instructors’ Mentor, Flight Training, Aviation Safety Magazine, and the American Bonanza Society magazine ABS.

Attendees will also have a chance to take advantage of free screenings in the exhibit hall. At Booth #754, Cigna, in partnership with AOPA, will be offering complimentary screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose on Thursday and Friday during show hours.

The Western Chapter of the Flying Physicians Association will address a range of medical issues during Summit at the Hyatt Regency Seaview C meeting room from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. each day.

A pilot’s health is the key to many years of flying. Find out what you can do to ensure you can keep your medical for years to come. Register for Summit today and check out the list of forums, including medical forums.

AOPA ePublishing staff
AOPA ePublishing Staff editors are experienced pilots, flight instructors, and aircraft owners who have a passion for bringing you the latest news and AOPA announcements.

Related Articles