It is no secret that airline pilots must have a very good eyesight, but do they necessarily have to have eyes as sharp as an eagles for this job ? Is the wearing of glasses or contact lenses in the cockpit allowed? Are the regulations the same for all ? Here’s what we discovered…
When you're an airline pilot, every year there is an obligatory test to pass : the ophthalmology exam ... and better not miss it if you want to continue your career in the cockpit ! Having perfect eyesight is indeed a prerequisite, however certain “ adjustments” are permitted.
Valérie Baraton, Orthoptist - Blagnac Medical Centre :
"Pilots are required to have 20 / 20 vision in both eyes, corrected or not , i.e. with an optical medium of their choice, either with glasses or contact lenses. However, if they are uncorrected below a certain limit they “have to wear compulsory glasses in flight"; i.e. they are obliged to wear glasses and carry a spare pair in their case.”
But since April the legislation has eased considerably in Europe - commercial aircraft pilots now have a much wider SCOPE !
Dr. Jean Mouchard, Aeronautical Doctor - Blagnac Medical Centre:
"Corrective surgery for myopia is now permitted, which eliminates the need for glasses, in order to obtain the fateful FAA 20/20 or European JAR 6/6. Regarding optical corrections we tend now to do as in the United States - that’s to say, not to limit the optical corrections, and could even jokingly say that if one is able to see 20 / 20 with spectacles like magnifying glasses it’s fine !"
A diopter is the power of the lens that is needed to correct your vision to normal FAA 20/20 ( or metric 6/6 ) - the higher the number, the stronger the lens.
If you are near-sighted the notation will be minus – , and described in diopters. For example : – 5.0.
If you have presbyopia or are far-sighted then the notation will be plus + and is also described in diopters, e.g. + 2.5. In Europe, the correction limits are +5 diopters for far-sightedness and -6 diopters for myopia or near-sightedness; beyond that, you will be declared inapt / unfit !
For fighter pilots, however, the tolerance is zero. Having visual acuity without correction, of at least 20 / 20 is mandatory. Don’t laugh, it IS possible, and even quite frequent. Let’s be realistic, having just good eyesight isn’t enough to become a “Top gun” in real life.