Worried that imperfect vision might cloud your dream of flying? Don’t ground your aviator ambitions just yet; with glasses or contacts, you can still bring your cockpit dreams into sharp focus.

Can you become a pilot if you wear glasses or contact lenses? Yes, wearing glasses or contact lenses doesn’t disqualify you from becoming a pilot. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other global aviation authorities permit the use of corrective lenses to meet their vision requirements. For First and Second Class Medical Certificates, you need 20/20 vision, and for a Third Class Medical Certificate, 20/40 vision is sufficient. If you needed glasses or contacts to pass the vision test at your medical exam, you must wear them while flying.

Can I Become a Pilot If I Wear Glasses or Contact Lenses?
Can I Become a Pilot If I Wear Glasses or Contact Lenses?

Equip yourself with the knowledge you need from our article on earning a pilot’s license while managing a medical condition.

Understanding Eyesight Condition

Brief Explanation of the Various Eyesight Conditions

Refractive errors, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, and presbyopia, can affect a person’s vision, and are common concerns for aspiring pilots. Nearsighted individuals struggle to see distant objects, while farsighted individuals have trouble seeing objects that are close.

Astigmatism can cause blurry vision at all distances, and presbyopia occurs with age, leading to difficulty focusing on near objects. Fortunately, most of these conditions can be corrected or managed with glasses or contact lenses.

How It Generally Affects Individuals

  • Pilot requirements: To become a pilot, a certain level of vision is required. For instance, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mandates that commercial pilots have 20/20 distant vision, with or without corrective lenses. This means that even with glasses or contact lenses, aspiring pilots must meet the specified vision requirements.
  • Astigmatism: This condition can cause blurred or distorted vision at any distance, potentially affecting a pilot’s ability to read instruments and navigate effectively. However, it can be managed with corrective lenses, allowing individuals to meet the necessary vision standards.
  • Color vision: Pilots must also pass a color vision test, as they need to correctly identify colored lights and signals during flights. Individuals with color vision deficiencies may face challenges in meeting this requirement.
  • Presbyopia: This age-related condition can make it difficult to focus on near objects, which may affect a pilot’s ability to read instruments and charts. However, bifocal or progressive lenses can help in managing presbyopia.

Can I Become a Pilot If I Wear Glasses or Contact Lenses?

Wearing glasses or contact lenses does not necessarily disqualify someone from becoming a pilot.

The Potential Impact of the Condition on a Pilot’s Ability to Make Decisions and Fly Safely

When it comes to meeting the visual requirements for piloting, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mandates certain vision standards.

For instance, 20/20 distance vision is required for First & Second Class Medical Certificates, and 20/40 for Third Class Medical Certificates. Those who need corrective lenses during medical assessments must wear them while flying.

For military pilots, including those in the air force and navy, vision requirements vary by branch and specific role. However, the use of eyeglasses or contact lenses is generally accepted, as long as their vision meets the minimum standards set by each branch.

Fighter pilots, for example, generally require good uncorrected distance vision in addition to having their vision corrected to 20/20.

The primary concern with corrective lenses is how they may affect a pilot’s decision-making and navigation abilities. Here are a few factors to consider:

  • Potential discomfort: Prolonged hours of wearing corrective lenses may cause discomfort, leading to distractions in the cockpit.
  • Dependency on corrective lenses: In case of losing or damaging glasses or contact lenses while flying, a pilot’s ability to see clearly could be compromised.
  • Difficulty in recognizing colors: Certain types of tinted lenses or older contact lenses may affect a pilot’s ability to accurately perceive colors, which is essential for interpreting navigation lights, maps, and displays.

To ensure safety and maintain the highest standards, regular vision testing is conducted throughout a pilot’s career. This ensures that those who require glasses or contact lenses maintain proper visual acuity for their duties.

Regulatory Stance on Pilots with Eyesight Conditions

FAA’s Stance on Pilot’s Standard of Vision

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allows pilots to wear glasses or contact lenses. For First and Second Class Medical Certificates, the FAA mandates a 20/20 distance vision, while Third Class Medical Certificates require a 20/40 vision.

If pilots need corrective lenses during their medical assessment, they are required to wear them while flying.

The FAA has specific vision standards for air traffic controllers. They must demonstrate 20/20 distance vision in each eye separately, 20/40 in each eye at 16 inches near vision, and 20/40 in each eye for intermediate vision.

Those who do not meet these standards may still be eligible, but they might need to wear glasses to provide optimum visual acuity.

Other Global Aviation Regulatory Bodies’ Stance

Various international aviation regulatory bodies also have their own rules regarding pilots who require corrective lenses. These regulatory bodies allow pilots to wear glasses or contact lenses as long as they meet the specified vision standards for different classes of medical certificates.

It is crucial for aspiring pilots to consult the aviation authority in their country to confirm the specific requirements and restrictions regarding vision correction.

Medical Certification Requirements for Pilots with Glasses or Contact Lenses

Necessary Medical Tests and Evaluations

Meeting eyesight requirements is crucial for becoming a pilot. The FAA medical certificate comes in three classes: first, second, and third class, with varying medical standards. Professional pilots typically require a first-class medical certificate, which necessitates a more stringent eyesight assessment.

During your medical exam with an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME), various tests are conducted to evaluate your vision, including near and distance vision tests, color vision tests, and cycloplegic refractions.

The minimum standard for distant vision is typically 20/20 in each eye for a first-class medical certificate and 20/40 for a third-class certificate. Your vision can be corrected by wearing glasses or contact lenses to meet these standards.

Disclosure Requirements

Honesty is essential while applying for a FAA medical certificate. You must disclose any glasses or contact lenses you wear and any history of vision issues during your medical certification application process on the FAA Form 8500-8.

This transparency allows the AME to ensure you’re medically fit as a pilot and maintain the safety standards required in aviation.

The documentation process for a pilot’s medical certificate involves creating a MedXPress account using a valid email address. Submitting form 8500-8 via MedXPress expedites the certification process and keeps all information readily accessible if required later.

Overcoming Challenges: Stories and Case Studies

Real-Life Examples of Pilots with the Vision Issues

Many pilots have successfully navigated the challenges of wearing glasses or contact lenses while flying. These individuals demonstrate that despite having less-than-perfect eyesight, one can still pursue a career as a pilot.

For instance, Mahogany Ray Arao, a 23-year-old cadet who completed a BSc in Aeronautical Engineering and worked towards her private pilot’s license, wears corrective lenses to achieve 20/20 vision when flying.

How They Managed Their Condition and Continued Flying

Pilots with the need for glasses or contact lenses follow certain accommodations and best practices to ensure their eyesight does not impact their performance on the job.

  • Corrective lenses: Pilots must have their vision corrected to 20/20 with the use of glasses or contact lenses, as required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for commercial pilots.
  • Spare pair of glasses: It’s a good idea for pilots to carry a spare pair of glasses, in case their primary pair is damaged or lost during a flight.
  • Regular medical check-ups: To maintain their pilot certification, individuals need to pass regular vision tests as part of their pilot medical exams. This ensures their eyesight stays within acceptable limits and their corrective eyewear remains up-to-date.
  • Choosing the right eyewear: Pilots must choose glasses or contact lenses that provide comfort, durability, and optimal vision correction, especially during long flights.

Risks and Considerations

When considering a career as a pilot while wearing glasses or contact lenses, it’s important to understand the risks and considerations involved.

This section will cover potential risks of flying with vision impairments and the medications that may affect your ability to obtain a medical certificate.

Potential Risks of Flying with Vision Impairments

While pilots with glasses and contact lenses can still work in the aviation industry, some challenges and risks can arise due to their vision impairments. For example:

  • Meeting the minimum vision standards required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other aviation authorities might be more difficult for those who wear corrective lenses.
  • Pilots with astigmatism could experience difficulties reading instruments or making out objects in the distance, especially during nighttime or in low visibility conditions.
  • Those with color vision deficiencies might find some color-coded aviation systems challenging to interpret correctly.
  • Pilots with glasses or contact lenses might be more prone to issues with intraocular pressure, especially during rapid changes in altitude, which can lead to temporary vision loss or discomfort.

Medications That May Affect a Pilot’s Ability to Obtain a Medical Certificate

Certain medications could impact your ability to meet the FAA’s vision requirements. It is essential to declare any prescribed medication during your medical examination.

Some examples of medications that may affect your vision or ability to obtain a medical certificate include:

  • Steroids, which can increase intraocular pressure and adversely affect your vision.
  • Antihistamines, which can cause temporary blurred vision, difficulty focusing, or dry eye symptoms.
  • Blood pressure medications, which may cause visual disturbances or impact your ability to differentiate colors.

My list above isn’t exhaustive, and it’s vital to consult with your aviation medical examiner (AME) regarding any medications you are taking.

Transparency and Honesty in the Medical Certification Process

Importance of Disclosing the Condition During the Certification Process

When pursuing a career as a pilot, it is essential to be transparent and honest when undergoing the medical certification process.

If you wear glasses or contact lenses, you must disclose this information during your examination. The FAA requires pilots to meet specific vision standards to obtain a medical certificate for safety reasons.

If an aspiring pilot has a vision problem such as myopia, hyperopia, or astigmatism, it’s crucial to report the condition to the aviation medical examiner (AME). Wearing corrective lenses, glasses, or contacts may still allow you to fulfill the vision requirements set by the FAA.

By being honest about your condition, you can avoid potential complications later on when you start flying.

Consequences of Hiding the Condition

Failure to disclose the fact that you wear glasses or contact lenses during the medical certification process carries serious consequences.

Pilots who hide crucial medical information can face penalties, risk the suspension or revocation of their medical certificate, and jeopardize their careers as aviators. Don’t do it! The FAA holds strict standards for vision, so reporting any vision issues is essential.

Hiding a vision condition can endanger your life, the lives of passengers, and others nearby. Compromised vision may prove hazardous while operating an aircraft, especially in demanding situations such as low visibility or during emergencies.

Coping Mechanisms and Support for Pilots with the Condition

Tips and Strategies for Managing Eyesight-related Issues While Flying

For pilots who require glasses or contact lenses to improve their eyesight, adopting certain tips and strategies can make flying more comfortable and efficient:

  1. Choose the right corrective lenses: Select eyeglasses or contact lenses that provide clear vision without distortion, glare, or irritation. Opt for lenses with anti-reflective coating, which can help reduce glare from the airplane’s instrument panel.
  2. Keep a spare pair handy: Store a backup pair of eyeglasses or an extra set of contact lenses in your flight bag, so you’re prepared if your primary pair gets damaged or lost.
  3. Wear sunglasses with UV protection: Protect your eyes from harmful UV rays by wearing sunglasses with a high-quality, polarized lens, especially during daytime flights.
  4. Take breaks and practice eye exercises: Give your eyes a break by practicing regular eye exercises and following the 20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes, focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

Support Resources Available for Pilots

For pilots who require glasses or contact lenses, it’s essential to access support resources that can help manage eyesight-related challenges:

  1. FAA Medical Examinations: Undergo regular FAA medical exams to ensure that your eyesight meets the minimum vision standards and to discuss any concerns with an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME).
  2. Professional Aviation Associations: Network with other pilots who wear glasses or contact lenses by joining professional aviation associations and participating in online forums and communities.
  3. Aviation Training Institutes: Seek guidance from experienced instructors at your aviation training institute, as they may have useful advice on managing eyesight-related issues while flying.
  4. Optometrists and Ophthalmologists: Consult your optometrist or ophthalmologist regularly for recommendations on the best eyeglasses, contact lenses, or sunglasses to suit your specific vision needs and flying environment.

Final Thoughts

Not all pilots start with perfect vision, and the FAA recognizes this by allowing those who don’t naturally meet the visual requirements to use glasses or contacts to fulfill their piloting duties.

Different classes of pilots have different vision standards, but corrective lenses can help you clear those hurdles at each vision check along your flying path. There’s no need to let glasses or contacts keep your dreams on the runway—simply adjust your lenses, and you’re cleared for takeoff into your flying career with clarity and confidence.