Deaf Pilot Earns Instrument Rating

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Stephen Hopson has wanted to fly since he was four years old, and decided long ago that being deaf would not stop him. He earned a private and commercial certificate, and last week became the first deaf pilot to get his FAA instrument rating, flying a Cessna 172 in Akron, Ohio. Since instrument pilots must be able to communicate on the radio, Hopson explained to AVweb in an e-mail how it works: "The co-pilot's job is to be my conduit, or 'ear and speaking piece.'" The co-pilot listens and responds on the radio, then transmits the information to Hopson using signs and writing on a quick-erase board. Hopson is PIC in charge of the flight and makes all decisions. "By knowing what to expect and what to tell the co-pilot to say on the radio, a deaf instrument-rated pilot is PIC in the true sense of the word," Hopson wrote. He plans to get a multiengine rating next, and then fly jets. He also is lobbying the FAA to expedite the implementation of datalink technology at the GA level, which he says would eventually enable deaf pilots to fly IFR on their own. "The Europeans are already using datalink," he wrote. "It's just a matter of time." For more info about flying with hearing impairment, go to the FAA's Web site or to the Deaf Pilots Association.