Trailblazer in the Sky
His passion was flying airplanes. It still is.
Here is the remarkable story of Stephen Steele, a Canadian trailblazer who became the first Type I diabetic airline captain in the world.
He grew up knowing that the only thing he wanted to do was fly. At 16, he got his student pilot permit, and by 17 he had his private pilot's license. At 21, he got hired by Air Canada and thought he was living the dream…until one day, 8 years later, he was forced to surrender his pilot's license due to a diagnosis of Type I, insulin-dependent diabetes.
The landmark court case…
Guidelines for flying…
It took a couple of months to stabilize the diabetes, but meanwhile, Stephen had lost his job and was told he'd never fly again. Faced with this new reality and the need to find a new career, Stephen headed for law school and spent the next 5 years getting his law degree and opening his own law practice. During that time, however, he never lost his "spark" for flying and managed to stay on part-time with Air Canada as a simulator instructor, teaching pilots to fly the DC-9 aircraft.
Juggling both careers proved to be enormously time-consuming, however, so eventually he had to make a choice. Stephen knew that his heart was always in aviation, so he jumped at an opportunity to be a flight simulator instructor for Cathay-Pacific Airways and packed up his wife and two sons and moved to Hong Kong. The opportunities and experiences he and his family shared throughout their 8 years in Asia went beyond what they could have imagined, and little did they know how much the aviation field would change over the course of that time.
Watch & listen to the first video clip on the right as Stephen tells the story of how he got his chance to get back in the cockpit.
Stephen uses an insulin pump to control his blood sugars, and he tests his blood 14-15x daily when he is flying, and 6-7x when he isn't flying. He must stay on top of his health in order to live his dream and to ensure that all of his passengers remain safe in his care. Transport Canada makes sure of that, as the rules for pilots with Type I diabetes are very strict. Click on the second video on the right to hear Stephen speak about the kinds of guidelines and criteria that pilots with Type I diabetes must meet.