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September 13, 2018
You’re probably aware that there are certain vision standards you have to meet to drive a car legally. Everyone has to pass a vision test to be granted a license which may require corrective lenses while driving. It’s a logical requirement – you want the drivers around you to be able to read all the signs! Are the vision requirements different for those with certain job, like airline pilots? Are they stricter?
The short answer is yes. Taking airline pilots as an example, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires pilots to take a comprehensive vision test by an Aviation Medical Examiner. In order to get a First-Class FAA Medical Certificate needed to fly a commercial passenger airline, the pilot needs to have 20/20 distant vision in each eye, 20/40 near vision in each eye, and 20/40 intermediate vision in each eye. However, if these numbers are achievable with correction, the aspiring pilot will still be able to fly. So glasses are permitted!
Colorblindness or color deficiency is more of a gray area (no pun intended) for those who want to get a pilot license. There are scenarios where certain color deficiencies are permissible, but the FAA requires pilots to have good enough color vision to identify important things like aircraft position lights, airport beacons, chart symbols, and more. A thorough color vision test is done to ensure that student pilots can safely carry out their duties.
Military pilots have even stricter vision requirements than commercial airline pilots. These requirements vary slightly depending on the branch of military, but the Air Force requires pilots to have no less than 20/70 vision in each eye, correctable to 20/20. But as of 2007, aspiring military pilots who have had PRK or LASIK eye surgery are no longer immediately disqualified from flight school. This change has made flying for the military a much more accessible career option for qualified men and women.
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