Becoming a pilot is one of the most amazing career choices/ experiences in life.
Not only do you get to see the world, but you get to see it through the eyes of a pilot.
For all the respect and wonder that comes with being a pilot, of course, there’s just as much responsibility.
Not only are pilots responsible for ensuring the safety of their passengers and crew members, but they would also like to make it home safely to their own families too.
Although it is a little surprising, one pretty important aspect of flying through the sky is sight.
So, not only do pilots need to undertake extensive training and gain certification, but they also need to ensure their vision is top-notch.
In this article, we are going to cut all aspiring pilots a break by explaining that you don’t necessarily need a 20/20 vision to become a pilot.
So sit back, get comfortable, and come and discover the world of aviation through the eyes of a pilot (with good vision).
Do You Need 20/20 Vision To Become A Pilot?
We’re guessing there are a few aspiring pilots among us with less than perfect eyesight that are wondering whether they can apply to become a pilot?
Fortunately, not having perfect eyesight won’t prevent you from fulfilling your dreams of becoming a pilot as long as your eyes are correctable up to 20/20.
If you are colorblind, however, it is more difficult but not impossible to become a professional pilot.
Can Pilots Wear Glasses?
Yes, pilots can wear glasses as long as they don’t interfere with vision or cause any other problems. Pilots should be able to see clearly while flying.
If you have trouble seeing when wearing glasses, contact your eye doctor before flying.
According to the FAA, if you need corrective lenses for your eyes, you can either wear prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses.
The FAA also suggests that you carry a spare pair of glasses or contacts when flying.
Can Aspiring Pilots Have Corrective Eye Surgery?
Aspiring pilots can have corrective eye surgery to improve their vision and gain the 20/20 vision that’s needed to become a pilot.
There are two approved and proven surgery types that the FAA recognizes and they are LASIK and PRK surgery.
Lasik – Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis
LASIK surgery can be a great alternative to wearing glasses or contact lenses for pilots.
LASIK surgery involves a special type of cutting laser that, with precision cuts, changes the shape of the clear tissue of the cornea at the front of the eye.
This can, in some cases, dramatically improve a person’s vision and pull it in line with the required 20/20 vision to become a pilot.
PRK – Photorefractive Keratectomy
PRK is a specialist type of eye surgery that corrects reflective eye problems where your eyes don’t bend light properly, which keeps you from seeing your best.
Unlike LASIK which creates a thin layer of the cornea, PRK removes the cornea’s outer layer in its entirety.
Over time, the outer layer of the cornea will slowly regenerate and grow back, which may mean more surgery in the future.
Pilot Vision Requirements By License Type
You may already know that there are first-class (A), second-class (B), and third-class (C) medical certificates that must be obtained, depending on the type of pilot license you are wishing to obtain.
Each certificate has its own set of requirements, and a good vision is right at the top of the pile in terms of importance.
The FAA requires that pilots hold one of the following pilot licenses: Private Pilot License (PPL), Commercial Pilot License (CPL), Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL), Flight Instructor Certificate (FIC), Instrument Rating (IR), Multi-Engine Rating (MOR), as well as the relatable medical certification.
Private Pilot License (PPL)
Pilots who solely desire to fly privately require a third-class medical certificate.
This license allows you to operate single-engine aircraft weighing between 12,500 lbs and 14,999 lbs. It also allows you to fly solo, without an instructor present.
To receive a PPL, you need to pass the written portion of the medical exam and meet the following minimum visual acuity requirement:
To see clearly at a distance, you need to meet these requirements: 20/40 or better vision in both eyes; and 20/40 or worse vision in both eyes when measured at 16 inches away.
At present, there are no intermediate vision tests to obtain a PPL medical certificate.
To be eligible to take the PPL exam, you must be 18 years old and have completed 12 hours of flight time. This includes 10 hours of solo flight time.
Commercial Pilot License (CPL)
If you’ve got big commercial aircraft flying dreams, then you’ll need to obtain a second-class medical certificate first.
For the distant vision test, both of your eyes will need perfect 20/20 vision.
Measured at 16 inches (near vision), your vision in both eyes must match 20/40 or better.
Unlike the private pilot license, gaining a CPL will require you to have sufficient intermediate vision if you’re over the age of 50.
This entails a test at 32 inches to determine whether you have 20/40 or better vision in each eye at this distance.
Is Vision Re-Examination Required As A Pilot?
To ensure that your eyesight is always in good shape as you fly, regular eye exams are very important for pilots and you’ll have to go through them periodically in your career as a flight instructor.
There are different requirements depending on which type of medical certificate you’re looking for and which pilot you want to be certified.
Third-class medical cards expire after 36 months, but if you’re 40 or older, you need to renew them every two years.
If you pass your second-class medical certificate, you will be required to renew it annually.
If you pass your first-class, you will be expected to renew it every six months, regardless of whether you’re young, old, or somewhere in-between.
Is 20/20 Vision Required To Become A Pilot In The Military?
As you could probably guess, becoming a pilot in the Air Force requires the highest vision out of any pilot.
This means that you will need 20/30 vision (without correction) for near vision.
While only 20/70 is required for distance vision, this must be correctable to 20/20 vision.
If you are thinking about joining the AirForce, there are other eyesight tests that must be undertaken including astigmatism and such.
Yes, the Air Force has the strictest rules on eyesight.
However, if you would still like to serve in the military but haven’t got the eyesight needed for the Air Force, then there’s always the option of serving as a pilot in the Navy or Marine Corps, or Army.
These aspects of the Military only require 20/40 vision that can be corrected to 20/20, instead of 20/30 like the Air Force.
So there you have it, while good eyesight is an essential element of becoming a pilot, if you don’t have perfect 20/20 vision from birth, not all hope is lost.
Whether you’re thinking about becoming a private pilot or a career in the Air Force, we hope this article has been a helpful one in achieving your dreams of flying.