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Meet the City worker who breaks aviation world records in his spare time

Most people don’t need to take a gun with them when they go flying.

Douglas Cairns, investment specialist at Threadneedle Asset Management, is an exception to this rule. He is attempting to break the world speed record between Alaska and the North Pole, and the gun is for self-defence, should an engine failure – always a risk when flying in Arctic conditions with enough extra fuel for a 16 hour round trip – force an emergency landing among polar bears.

The attempt is the latest in a series of projects designed to raise both awareness of diabetes and funds for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Cairns, who was forced out of the RAF in 1989 upon being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, previously smashed the world record for landing in all 48 contiguous states of America then followed it up with a successful attempt to break the 50 state record.

While the USA has allowed people like Douglas Cairns to fly with a private pilot’s licence since 1999, most countries’ aviation authorities have yet to catch up – a situation Cairns hopes to help change. As he says, ‘diabetes need not limit the scope of people’s dreams and ambitions’.

Citywire is supporting the campaign, alongside Cairns' employer Threadneedle. You can learn more about the record attempt, including how to donate, by watching the video and visiting the Diabetes Polar Flight website (

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