If you want to be a pilot but have bad eyesight, there is nothing to worry about – just as long as your vision can be corrected, whether that’s through the use of glasses, contact lenses, or eye surgery like LASIK.
So, while the answer to the question can pilots wear glasses is yes, there are a few additional things that you should know, depending on whether you want to become a private, commercial, or airline pilot, or perhaps are more interested in joining the Air Force or another branch of the military.
Vision Requirements by Pilot License
Private Pilot License (PPL)
In order to obtain a third-class medical certificate, which is necessary to become a private pilot, your near and distant vision needs to be correctable to 20/40.
No intermediate vision correction is required.
Commercial Pilot License (CPL)
To become a commercial pilot, a second-class medical certificate is required.
Vision must be correctable to 20/20 for distant vision, and 20/40 for near vision, measured at 16 inches. Intermediate vision must also be correctable to 20/40 if you are 50 or older, as measured at 32 inches.
Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL)
To obtain a first-class medical certificate and become an airline pilot, the same vision requirements are applicable as a second-class medical certificate.
Air Force & Military Pilots Vision and Glasses Requirements
Can Military Pilots Wear Glasses?
While the requirements to become a military pilot are generally stricter than for civilian pilot roles, glasses can still be worn to correct vision.
Army pilot applicants must have no worse than 20/50 vision, which is correctable to 20/20. Once flight training has been completed, vision must be no worse than 20/400 and must be correctable to 20/20.
Navy and Marine pilot applicants must have no worse than 20/40 vision, which is correctable to 20/40. Once flight training has been completed, vision must be no worse than 20/400 and must be correctable to 20/20 otherwise they will be restricted to operating aircraft with dual controls.
Can Air Force Pilots Wear Glasses / Can Fighter Pilots Wear Glasses?
The Air Force has the most stringent vision requirements, but corrective glasses can still be worn.
Air Force pilot candidates must have near vision acuity no worse than 20/30 without correction, and distant vision acuity of no worse than 20/70, which must be correctable to 20/20.
Once flight training has been completed, vision must not deteriorate to worse than 20/400, and must be correctable to 20/20.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do pilots need to carry an extra set of glasses?
The FAA makes it clear that pilots should carry an extra set of glasses or any other corrective lenses while flying. However, according to the Code of Federal Regulations, pilots are not legally bound to do so while flying within the United States.
If a pilot were to fly internationally or enter foreign airspace, though, different rules apply. There are several foreign aviation civil authorities that require pilots to have a spare set of glasses and, if not, the pilot will not be permitted to fly.
Regardless of whether you are legally bound to do so or not, we recommend that you always make sure to carry a spare pair with you.
Can you be a pilot with astigmatism?
Yes, you can become a pilot if you have astigmatism as long as it can be corrected. Therefore, while astigmatism is not a disqualifying factor, the severity of the condition can be.
Can a pilot wear glasses while wearing an aviation headset?
When wearing glasses some aviation headsets can cause pressure points or the tight seal of the earcups to loosen, causing discomfort or putting a pilot’s hearing at risk.
However, as long as a pilot buys one of the best aviation headsets from a reputable brand, there isn’t anything to worry about.
Can pilots wear polarized glasses?
Pilots should avoid polarized glasses. While they are great for filtering out glare, it is exactly this quality that means they should be avoided.
Cockpit instruments already have anti-glare filters, so with the combination of polarized glasses too, the glare becomes too much.
Wearing polarized glasses also makes it harder to spot other aircraft in the vicinity, as it becomes harder to notice the light reflecting off shiny surfaces like another aircraft’s wing or windshield.
If you’re looking for a great pair of non-polarized sunglasses, check out our guide to the best sunglasses for pilots.