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Against All Odds: Leigh Glaister

Against All Odds: Leigh Glaister

Against All Odds: Leigh Glaister

October 1, 2020 By Benjamin Morgan
A heart-warming letter of appreciation and support from a proud AOPA Australia member and pilot, Mr Leigh Glaister.
My name is Leigh Glaister, I am a 27-year-old male. I am a fit and healthy young man and have had minimal health issues throughout my life except for a...

My name is Leigh Glaister, I am a 27-year-old male. I am a fit and healthy young man and have had minimal health issues throughout my life except for a serious car accident, in which I was a passenger, in January of 2011 at the age of 17.

I sustained multiple injuries including:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Bleeds on the brain
  • Multiple skull fractures
  • Multiple facial fractures
  • 4 fractured vertebrae
  • Multiple fractured ribs
  • Punctured lungs
  • Lacerated Liver

After the accident I spent some time in a medical coma, followed by several months of physical and mental rehabilitation. I subsequently returned to full-time employment within 12 months of the accident

I have had negligible accident related health issues since the initial 12-month recovery period. Apart from the occasional headache and some minor back pain, for which I see a chiropractor once every 6 weeks, I have never felt or noticed any negative side effects from my injuries.

In March of 2018 I started my flying career after a conversation I had with a commercial pilot flying for Tiger Air at the time. After that conversation I immediately booked my first flying lesson, I was hooked on the thrill of flying and knew I wanted to fulfill my childhood dream and pursue a career in aviation.

In August of 2018 I applied for a class 1 and class 2 medical certificate.  CASA initially refused my application, relying heavily on the fact of my 2011 accident. CASA understandably wanted to know every piece of my medical history, both from a neurological and neuropsychological perspective.

In November of 2018 CASA sent me an email asking me if I wished to proceed with my application, and further requested:

1. A report from my neurologist relating to my head injury including any past or present seizure activity, MRI’s of the head, an EEG report, any treatment or side effects from my injuries along with an annualised percentage risk of post-traumatic epilepsy.

2. A report from a clinical psychologist including the results of up to date Neuropsychological testing.

3. A report from my Optometrist with respects to the temporary double vision I sustained including further testing and investigations.

4. All my ambulance reports, Emergency department reports, CT/MRI reports and images from the time of the accident, specific evidence of any seizure activity or neurological deficits and all medications prescribed, specifically any anticonvulsant medication.

5. A complete copy of my medical records from the time of my head injury to the current date.

I complied with all of CASA’s requests and provided them with all the above.  However, in April 2019 CASA refused my class 1 and class 2 medical application on the grounds of:

  • Impaired memory and concentration
  • Impaired decision-making ability
  • Loss of situation awareness
  • Subtle incapacitation secondary to absent seizures
  • Overt incapacitation secondary to seizures
  • Seizures

CASA then gave me 30 days to provide further information/evidence to support my application. I subsequently applied for several extensions as I attempted to ‘re-build’ my case. I was working full time and am a single father, thus I needed substantial time to try and reverse the heartbreaking decision of CASA.

Initially, I went back to my DAME, but they could not help me.  I then returned to my neurologist, but unfortunately, whilst sympathetic, advised me that he could not really me help me any further.

I was at a loss and did not know which route to take to prove to CASA that despite the severity of my injuries, I am in near perfect health today with no past or present seizure activity and above average neuropsychological testing results.

I then received a call from the CEO of my aviation school, he advised me that he had recently had a conversation with Benjamin Morgan, the Chief Executive of AOPA Australia. During the conversation, Benjamin said that AOPA and the AOPA medical panel could assist me in obtaining a medical certificate. I became a full paying member of AOPA Australia and immediately contacted the AOPA medical panel.

I provided AOPA with all my medical and CASA application documentation. The medical panel then reviewed my case. I was informed that it was going to be a difficult case to win, and the likelihood of obtaining a class 1 medical certificate with no restrictions was minimal, and that even a class 2 medical was a challenging prospect. Despite success being unlikely, the medical panel agreed to assist with my case.

Firstly, AOPA advised me to provide anything that promotes a positive argument and that could demonstrate my competency, e.g. a letter from my flight instructor outlining my ability to command an aircraft and my encouraging employment history.

AOPA then advised me to study for and sit for my RPL theory exam. I initially studied for and sat the RPL theory exam where I achieved a score of 73% with a pass mark of 70%. They also encouraged me to study for and sit my PPL theory exam. I did so and achieved a score of 87% with a pass mark of 70%.

Whilst studying for my exams and building a case to present to CASA, I was continuing my flying lessons and completed 34 hours of dual flight training including 2 navigation flights.

Following my successful exam results the AOPA medical panel assisted me in putting all the positive evidence together to build my case.

They then advised me how to compose my argument, and send it directly to CASA with all of my previous and current medical testing, exam results, the letter from my flight instructor, my total flying hours, my employment history (including completed apprenticeship) and details of my personal lifestyle and achievements.

I finalised and emailed my final argument to CASA on the 6th February 2020. Thus, the nervous waiting game had begun.

Approximately 2 1⁄2 ‘long’ months later I received a response. I nervously opened the email from CASA, and in probably one of the happiest moments of my life, staring at the attached class 1 and class 2 medical certificate with no restrictions document.

Over 18 months of persistence and dedication and the extremely valuable and appreciated help from the AOPA Australia and it;s Medical Panel I achieved a lifelong dream and was given the opportunity to become a pilot.

I would like to thank everyone at AOPA Australia, for their support and guidance they gave me, helping me prove to CASA that I am medically fit to command an aircraft.

I will forever be a paying member of AOPA Australia and I recommend that all pilots across the industry consider doing the same.

Benjamin Morgan

Executive Director - Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) of Australia

Topic: Community

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