Eyesight and Aviation Medicals

One of the most commonly asked questions is “can I still fly or be an air traffic controller if I wear glasses?” In most cases the answer is yes, although you may require specialist assessment and have licence limitations applied by the CAA.

Can I still fly or be an air traffic controller if I wear glasses? In most cases the answer is yes.

Can I still fly or be an air traffic controller if I wear glasses? In most cases the answer is yes.

Spectacles

Distance vision can be corrected with single vision glasses. As we age our ability to read at close range decreases, this is called ‘presbyopia’. Half-frame reading glasses can be used for reading printed flight strips or small font checklists. Pilots and air traffic controllers who already use distance correction may require varifocal lenses to factor in near correction.

All types of lenses (bifocal, progressive or trifocal) are usually acceptable provided they are well tolerated. We advise you to bring your latest optician’s prescription to your medical appointment, so we can discuss which glasses are best suited for your specific aviation work.

Contact Lenses

Contact lenses may be used as an alternative to spectacles for both pilots and air traffic controllers, with all types of materials (gas permeable, soft, soft disposable, hard) accepted. If you are planning to use contact lenses for flying or your work as an ATCO you should talk to us about the acceptable lens types.

Find out more about the CAA requirements for contact lenses.

Below are some of the other common questions the NATS Aeromedical team are asked with regards to matters relating to vision and aeromedical examinations:

Does Eye Surgery Prevent You from Holding an EASA Licence?

Surgery to correct myopia, or ‘short-sightedness’, is commonly performed nowadays. If you have had refractive surgery (eg LASIK, LASEK) in the past then we will be able to give you advice about how long you need to wait after surgery before flying or working as an air traffic controller. We will advise you about the specialist reports which we will require.

There are possible side effects of surgery that can have aviation implications, although this is less common with newer techniques. These include glare, haloes (rings of lights) and starburst effects (streaking of points of light), that can cause reduced clarity of vision during flying.

The ability to distinguish objects in low light conditions is important if you are operating at dawn or dusk. This is called mesopic contrast acuity, and it can be tested with a specific programme. We have Mesopic Contrast Acuity Assessment testing equipment for EASA Class 1 and 3 applicants at Swanwick Centre, which is a requirement of these certificates.

Can People with Colour Vision Deficiency Pass an Aeromedical Examination?

Colour vision deficiency affects approximately 8% of males and 1% of females. Sometimes this is referred to as being ‘colour-blind’ but it is in fact extremely rare to have no colour perception. Most people have variations of how they perceive shades of colour.

The most common type is inherited red-green deficiency where either red or green ‘cone’ receptors (cells of the retina) are missing or less sensitive. This can cause confusion between red, green and purple hues. Occasionally medical conditions or medications can cause blue-yellow deficiency.

To become a pilot or Air Traffic Controller, it is important to be able to distinguish the colours used in air navigation and correctly identify aviation coloured lights. Air traffic control applicants currently must have normal colour vision. Pilot applicants are required to be ‘colour safe’ and able to perceive the colours used in aviation.

If you have a known or suspected colour vision deficiency, we have Colour Assessment and Diagnosis (CAD) testing equipment to provide a definitive answer regarding your suitability for EASA Class 1, 2 or Class 3 standards. This is the advanced colour vision testing required by the UK CAA, for applicants who do not pass Ishihara plate screening. For those who do not meet Class 1 or 2 pilot standards, cases may be individually considered for flying with daylight or other operational restrictions.

Find out more about CAA visual requirements for EASA Class 1 or 2.

NATS Aeromedical services are available to companies and also to individuals. For more information please contact the medical reception on 01489 612810 or E-mail medical.reception@nats.co.uk. You can also find out more about what is assessed and why on our Medical Examination infographic.

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