First Ever Solo Flight to the North Pole, by a man with Diabetes

May 11, 2011
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Douglas Cairns, a forty-seven year old former pilot with Diabetes Type I flew his light plane to the North Pole, circled the pole triumphantly several times, landed at a Russian ice camp, and then took off and flew back to Barrows, Alaska- the most northern point of the USA.

On this flight he overcame “strong headwinds that cost him a delay of over two hours, the failure of his satellite –based navigation system and his diabetes” to earn his place in the aviation record books.

Cairn is the pilot who founded the organization, “Pilots with Disabilities” which provides a supportive and recreational platform for pilots with a number of disability types. One goal of the organization is to demonstrate to the world community the various ways that people can overcome limitations imposed not only by a specific disease or disability, but also regulatory and socially based exclusions as well. For example, only five nations allow a person with Diabetes to hold pilot licenses and fly planes. The USA not only allows persons with Diabetes to pilot, but allows them to fly solo as long as they adhere to regular in-flight monitoring of their blood-sugar levels (and take any relevant corrective actions).

Cairns has piloted the first ever “around the world” flight by a diabetic pilot (2003) and completed a 50-state flight in 2010. His next adventure will be a planned-speed record circumnavigation around the British coastline, which he plans to do in about 14 hours of flight time. After achieving his next goal, Cairns dreams of making a roundtrip journey between the Northern Hemisphere and the South Pole.

You can learn more about this pilot and his adventures on the websites below, and by watching an upcoming episode of “Flying Wild Alaska” on the Discovery Channel television series about Alaska Bush Pilots.


More information about Pilots with Disabilities

The British Disabled Flying Association –

Accessible Aviation –

Thirty-Thousand Feet –

Today –
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Author: Tanya