The baron against snow topped mountains

Who We Are

Participating Pilots

Douglas CairnsDouglas Cairns
Douglas is the founder and Director of Flying with Diabetes. In 1989 Douglas was a British Royal Air Force jet pilot at the age of 25 when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and consequently lost his flying career. In 2000 he regained the freedom to fly in the USA as a private pilot, and in 2003 completed "Diabetes World Flight", "Diabetes World Flight", the first round-the-world flight by a pilot with type 1 diabetes.

After writing a book on his world flight experiences (Dare to Dream: Flying Solo With Diabetes) Douglas spent three years in the USA delivering sponsored motivational talks to the diabetes community. During this time he set five world speed records and two USA transcontinental speed records, and in 2009 established Flying With Diabetes and subsequently broke the existing record to land in all 48 contiguous states of the USA ( and smashed the old record to land in all 50 USA states from 15 days to 5.75 days ( while raising funds for JDRF. In April 2011 he set a world speed record to the North Pole from Barrow, Alaska, landing on the polar ice ( Douglas is a co-founder and coordinating member of Pilots With Diabetes which actively engages with aviation authorities to promote commercial and private flying with diabetes, culminating in the UK Civil Aviation Authority introducing commercial flying for pilots with insulin treated diabetes in August 2012. Douglas gives regular talks to conferences & meetings, highlighting that diabetes need not limit the scope of people's dreams and ambitions. Douglas is based in London as an Investment Specialist with Threadneedle Investment Management, covering Asia & Global Emerging Markets equities.


Karl BeetsonKarl Beetson (UK)
Karl, 27, developed a burning passion for aviation from a young age and on his 16th birthday he flew his first solo circuit. Heartbreakingly for Karl in March 2007, aged 17 years old, he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and was told he would never be medically fit to fly professionally. He has since discovered that although a few doors close, many can open, and as a co-founder of Pilots with Diabetes, he firmly believes having diabetes should not be a barrier in any aspect of life.

Karl completed an Aerospace Engineering Degree at the University of Hertfordshire in 2009 and graduated from Cranfield University in 2012 with a Masters by research degree with his research later published in a peer reviewed scientific journal. He currently works as a continuing airworthiness engineer for the world’s only aerobatic airline and maintains a robust interest in aviation career opportunities. When Karl isn’t working he loves to fly whatever aircraft he can get a seat in, and when his head isn't in the clouds he enjoys skiing, cycling, cinema and staging huge Christmas Light displays each year for charity which recently gained national press and a TV documentary. In 2015 he raised over £3800 for JDRF UK with the festive display.

An active user of latest internet and communication technology, Karl has been the Technical Support crew member for three major Flying With Diabetes projects; Diabetes Flight 48 (DF48), Diabetes Flight 50 (DF50) and Diabetes Polar Flight. Karl currently flies a Vans RV-4 and is now involved in major projects as a flying crew member; a co-holder of a 14 hour and 17 minute national speed record in 2011 around Britain's coastline, a national formation speed record between Derby and Southampton in 2012 and an international formation speed record between Beverley and Le Touquet in 2013.


Damian FesseyDamian Fessey (UK)
Damian was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 14. In 2002 he became the first pilot with Type 1 to fly solo under the UK NPPL, and input into the protocol originally devised by the UK CAA for flying with diabetes. As a member of Pilots With Diabetes, (together with Douglas and Karl) he has actively campaigned for changes in aircrew regulation that led to the new approach adopted by the UK CAA in mid-2012 and ratified by EASA in 2013. He now holds a Class 2 medical (unrestricted), and also a FAI (Federation Aeronautique Internationale) Competitor's Licence.

Unfortunately, Damian was introduced to the joys of formation flying and aerobatics by Douglas without any warning of the addiction to come, and was the 'outside man' (the one who has to do all the hard work!) in the team's formation flight record between Derby and Southampton in September 2012.

Originally a Cambridge law grad, Damian also holds a master's degree from the Said Business School, Oxford, with professional experience extending from technology start-ups through to the 'Big 4.'


Matt PonsfordMatt Ponsford (UK)
Matt, 20, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when he was 18 years old. He was 24 hours from setting sail across the Atlantic on the ARC challenge with his family, when he got the news. Staff at the hospital said he could not go but Matt was not deterred, he was determined to live life to the full and stated that his Diabetes would have to fit in with his life. He set sail 24 hours later and hasn't looked back since.

Matt first flew solo on his 16th birthday and collected his Private Pilots license on his 17th. He and his brother are lucky enough to own a Cessna 150, so are often found to be flying in their spare time and doing Aerobatics. Matt joined the Flying with Diabetes group, on his return to the UK, in January 2011. He has gone on to fly the UK Diabetes Formation Flight in 2012, in his Cessna and the Diabetes Formation Flight Europe 2013 in a Super Decathlon.

Matt is now at University studying Yacht Production and Surveying. His other great love is sailing his high performance-foiling Moth. He has competed at club and National level all the while managing his sugar levels that can fluctuate with such exercise.


Jason HarmonJason Harmon (USA)
Jason Harmon made his first solo flight in 1988 at the age of 16, and earned his private pilot's license the following year. While in college, he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, ending his pursuit of a flying career as well as his ability to fly privately.

Early in 1997, the FAA made the special protocol available to allow individuals with insulin dependent diabetes to obtain the class 3 medical certification required for private piloting. Jason applied for this program and in the spring of 2007 became one of the first group of insulin dependent diabetic pilots to get their wings back. After regaining the ability to fly privately, he obtained instrument and multi-engine ratings. Jason is the US contact for Pilots With Diabetes.

Outside of flying, Jason has put his knowledge of diabetes to work as a founder and Chief Technology Officer of Get Real Health, where he designs software to help empower individuals to manage the health of themselves and their families. Jason's systems are in use in numerous organizations, hospitals, and governments in the US, Canada, and the UK. Jason lives with his wife Mandela and daughter Alice in Maryland. Jason is an active participant of Diabetes Formation Flight USA (


Taylor EverettTaylor Everett (USA)
Taylor grew up dreaming of a career in military aviation and took his first step towards flying for the military when he was accepted into the class of 2010 at the United States Air Force Academy. While attending the Air Force Academy he majored in Computer Science - Cyber Warfare and was fortunate enough to participate in many of the extracurricular aviation programs at his disposal including flying and instructing in gliders, flying the Diamond DA-40 and even free-fall parachuting. Upon graduation Taylor received his commission in the U.S. Air Force and attended Undergraduate Pilot Training at Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, TX. While at pilot training Taylor flew the T-6 Texan II and went on to fly the T-1A, the military version of the BeechJet 400A.

After graduating from pilot training Taylor was excited to be selected to fly his dream aircraft, the KC-10 "Extender". Shortly after arriving for KC-10 initial training however, Taylor's dream was cut short when he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in the Fall of 2012. Although Taylor wished to continue serving in the Air Force in a different career, he was medically retired from the Air Force and is now working as an aviation software engineer. Although Taylor misses flying as a career, he has really enjoyed the transition to the civilian workforce and loves creating aviation's next generation of advanced cockpits.

Taylor holds a Commercial Pilot's License with single, multi-engine and instrument certifications. He finally received his special issuance third class medical and is enjoying his love for flying through private aviation any chance he can get. When he's not working or flying Taylor enjoys woodworking and playing golf. Taylor currently lives in Kansas with his wife Mary. Taylor is an active participant of Diabetes Formation Flight USA (


Chris IslerChris Isler (USA)
Chris's love for aviation came early on. The son of a United States Navy aircraft carrier pilot turned commercial pilot for Western Airlines, he was always in and around the airport and aircraft. He began flying around the age of 13 in his family's Cessna 152 based in Torrance, California, and had always thought one summer he'd get his private pilot license. It turns out during those years the beach was more of a draw.

Twenty-five years later at the age 40, Chris had been living with type one diabetes first diagnosed at age 28. He had been driving past the airport where a large hanger had been flying a banner that read "Learn to Fly!!" for several years. On every passing he'd say to himself "one day". One day and some 35 years after his first dream of flight he spun a U turn and pulled into that flight school. He asked a few questions and an instructor that was standing by gave him an overview and the requirements. He remembers being very excited and handed the woman at the counter his credit card and asked her to charge the entire package at once so he'd never have an excuse. At that moment the Instructor spoke out and said, "There was one more thing. You'll need an aviation medical, but you look fit. You don't have heart disease or DIABETES, do you?" His heart sank.

Chris figured something would work out.

Chris's flight training began immediately and he flew through it right up until it was time to have his first solo. His instructor told him he was ready and asked if he had gotten medical, a requirement for solo flight. He hadn't until that point spoken much about having diabetes. So with a bit of concern, off he went to research how to obtain what he learned was called a "special issuance medical". For anyone who doesn't know, it's a bit of work, but very doable, if your diabetes is well controlled. It took about 4 months to get everything required done, put together, and sent to the FAA. The longest part was waiting for review and approval by the FAA. After all the work Chris was back on track and weeks away from his practical test, having completed all he could and then some prior to his solo requirements.

Today three years and over 200 hours later, Chris is seeking an Instrument rating and loving owning his 172SP. Chris is an active participant of Diabetes Formation Flight USA (


David MaloneDavid Malone (USA)
David Malone grew up in the southest and was first introduced to flying when his older cousin took him up in a 1947 Bonanza. He went on to attend Vanderbilt University and graduated with a degree in math and physics. After landing his first job as a Systems Engineer for EDS, he finally had the opportunity to pursue his dream of flying lessons. Over the years, as his love for aviation grew, David pursued his flight instructor ratings including glider instructor. In 1986, he purchased an older Cessna 310. Still quite busy in his software career, he started teaching multi engine students on the weekends.

In 1995, David and his partners sold a small software company in Long Beach. Now, with 20 years of software experience, he switched careers and took a job flying an MU-2 turboprop for a Los Angeles based charter company. Today, he is a Captain and IOE instructor on a Gulfstream.

David is 59 years old and was diagnosed with type II diabetes in his early 50's. So far, David maintains his 1st class medical via a special issuance. He is an avid cyclist and loves all outdoor activities. He's also a member of the traveling team: teamNovoNordisk (type2). On his days at home, he trains 50 to 60 miles on his road bike.

David lives with his wife Palmira in Phoenix. His son Fletcher attends Rutgers in the NE. David is an active participant of Diabetes Formation Flight USA (


David MaloneJeremy Robertson (Australia)
Jeremy Robertson began learning to fly at age 15, and gained a PPL in his final year of high school. Determined to achieve a career as an airline pilot, Jeremy completed a Bachelor of Aviation degree which included an ATPL, as well as instrument and instructor ratings. After working for twelve months as a flying instructor in Sydney, and a further 18 months as a charter pilot in Australia's remote north west, Jeremy was very lucky to land a job as a Boeing 747-400 Second Officer.

Jeremy flew as a Second Officer for four years, before being promoted to Boeing 767-300 First Officer. During his time as a First Officer, Jeremy completed a Master of Aerospace Engineering degree and also maintained his love of light aircraft flying by working as a casual ultralight instructor and casual skydive pilot.

In early 2010 Jeremy was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes which ended his commercial flying career. After much consideration he decided to pursue a career as a doctor, and is currently undertaking a four year Bachelor of Medicine / Bachelor of Surgery degree. In his spare time, Jeremy is still involved in his local ultralight club as a volunteer instructor, manages to hold a PPL, and will happily fly any aeroplane that he can get his hands on.