Diabetic pilot aims for record-breaking polar flight

Thu Mar 31, 2011 2:47pm EDT
 
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By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters Life!) - Diabetic pilot Douglas Cairns plans a flying expedition to the North Pole to show what those with his illness can accomplish in the air.

In most of the world, diabetics are forbidden from flying private planes.

Cairns had to give up his British Royal Air Force career when he was diagnosed with diabetes in 1989. Now he is mounting an expedition for the record books.

In late April, when daylight and ice conditions are expected to be optimal, he plans to take off from Barrow, Alaska, and fly about 1,300 miles to the North Pole and back.

Cairns, who flies a twin-engine Beechcraft Baron, said the journey would make him the first pilot to land a light, twin-engine piston aircraft at the pole, a claim backed up by a spokesman for Guinness World Records.

The North Pole expedition is the latest in a series of aerial feats by Cairns and friends, including various speed records in the United States and a team effort that set a record for landing in each of the 50 states.

"It's just been great to be able to take up these projects to spread the message of what you can do with diabetes, rather than what you can't," said Cairns, who was in Anchorage, Alaska, making preparations for the North Pole expedition.

He expects to set a speed record for the air route from Barrow to the North Pole, which he intends to complete in about 15 hours, round-trip. The World Air Sports Federation does not list a speed record for that route.   Continued...

 
<p>Former Royal Air Force fighter pilot Douglas Cairns poses with his Beech Baron twin engine plane at Bangpra airfield, east of Bangkok, in this December 8, 2002 file photo. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang</p>