World Record Attempt by Diabetic Pilots

Saturday, 13 August 2011

On 14th August 2011, two intrepid pilots with type 1 diabetes, Douglas Cairns and Karl Beetson, will take off from Dunsfold Aerodrome, Surrey at dawn in an attempt to break a speed record to fly around Britain's coastline in a tiny single-engine aircraft. 

The pilots record attempt will start over Worthing Pier in a Vans RV8 aircraft where they begin their journey to cover 3,500 km, or 1,900 nautical miles, to qualify for the record. The pilots will need to refuel at four airports – Swansea, Carlisle, Kirkwall and Teesside – before trying to complete the bid in 14.5 hours between dawn and dusk.


Both pilots are members of Flying With Diabetes (, an initiative to raise awareness of diabetes and raise funds for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation ( The record attempt is born out of Douglas and Karl's dedication to showing that diabetes need not limit the scope of people's dreams and ambitions.


So far the team has helped raise over £53,000 since 2008 with a series of record-breaking flights in the USA, including a new world speed record from Barrow, Alaska to the North Pole in April 2011 ( 


Only five countries around the world allow pilots with type 1 diabetes to fly privately, with the UK offering a National Private Pilot Licence (NPPL) for single engine aircraft below 2000 kg weight.  The USA has the most flexible system that offers full private flying privileges, including multi-engine aircraft. 




Notes to Editors:


Dunsfold Park:
Dunsfold Park Ltd are the owner and operator of Dunsfold Park, the industrial complex on the site of Dunsfold Aerodrome.  Dunsfold Park was a base for Canadian and Dutch B-25 Mitchell bombers during WWII, and for aircraft involved in the Berlin Airlift in 1949.  It was subsequently used by Hawker Aircraft and BAE Systems to build combat aircraft, including the Hunter, Harrier and Hawk, until the factory was closed in 2000. Dunsfold Park is still used as a private airfield and is the home of BBC TV's Top Gear programme.


Pilots Background:
Douglas Cairns, age 48, lost his boyhood dreams to fly RAF jets when diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1989.  Since regaining a pilot's licence in the USA in 2000 he has completed a series of flying records, including the first round-the-world flight by a licenced pilot with type 1 diabetes in 2003  ( In 2010 he broke the record to land in all 50 states of the USA, for which he won an award from the USA's National Aeronautic Association for One of the Most Memorable Aviation Records of 2010.  In April 2011 Douglas set a new world speed record to the North Pole from Barrow, Alaska, followed by landing on the polar ice at Barneo Ice Camp.  Since 2003 he has helped raise over £67,000 for diabetes research and is a founder member of Pilots With Diabetes (  Douglas is an investment specialist with Threadneedle Asset Management in London.


Karl Beetson, age 22, lost his pilots medical and chance of a future flying career aged 17 due to sudden diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. He has since discovered that although a few doors close, many can open, and as a co-founder of Pilots with Diabetes (, he is passionate to assist others to become professional pilots despite regulations which currently prevent this. Karl completed an Aerospace Engineering Degree at the University of Hertfordshire in 2009 and is currently working towards starting a PhD in continuous glucose management studies for drivers and pilots with diabetes (insulin-treated) before embarking upon a medicine degree to become a doctor specializing in diabetes. A "maestro" of technology, Karl has been the Technical Support crew member for three major flying projects; Diabetes Flight 48 (DF48), Diabetes Flight 50 (DF50) and Diabetes Polar Flight. Karl is now looking forward to joining major projects as a flying crew member, using a freshly-minted British National Private Pilot Licence (NPPL).