One of the first questions aspiring pilots who aren’t blessed with perfect vision have is, do I meet the vision requirements for a Private Pilot License?
Thankfully, the vast majority of people who want to obtain a PPL meet FAA vision requirements, even if they currently experience issues such as near and far-sightedness, astigmatism, or even color blindness.
There are a few nuances to the requirements, though, which you will want to know all about.
Eyesight Requirements (Near and Distant Vision)
A Private Pilot License falls under a third-class medical certificate. Therefore, the vision requirements for this type of certificate, which are less stringent than for first-class and second-class medical certificates, must be met.
A private pilot must have distant vision that is correctable to 20/40 in each eye. Near vision must be correctable to 20/40 in each eye, as measured at 16 inches.
No intermediate vision standard is required.
The FAA also states that “No acute or chronic pathological condition of either eye or adnexa that interferes with the proper function of an eye, that may reasonably be expected to progress to that degree, or that may reasonably be expected to be aggravated by flying.”
Simply put, this means that your vision should not interfere or deteriorate to such a degree that you are unable to operate an aircraft safely.
The FAA, in FAR Part 67, states “the ability to perceive those colors necessary for safe performance of airman duties” is required to obtain any medical certificate for flying, including the third-class medical certificate that a PPL falls under.
However, even if you are color blind and fail the pseudoisochromatic color plate test at the time of your FAA physical exam, you will still be able to obtain a Private Pilot License, though it will be issued with restrictions. Your certificate will read “Not valid for night flying or by color signal controls.”
If you would like these restrictions lifted, there is still a chance to do so. You can take an alternative FAA-approved test and, if successful, all restrictions will be lifted. Keep in mind, though, that every time you need to reapply for a medical certificate you will have to take the same test again.
If you fail one of the alternate tests, you will be required to take an operational color vision test (OCVT). This consists of a signal light test and a practical test. If you pass, a 3rd Class Letter of Evidence will be issued.
While this means you might not be issued a medical certificate that is higher than third-class, any color vision limitations for flying will be lifted.
20/20 Vision, Glasses, LASIK, and Other Private Pilot License Vision Requirements
While first-class and second-class medical certificates require a pilot to have vision that is correctable to 20/20, third-class private pilot medical certificates only require vision to be correctable to 20/40. So no, you do not need 20/20 vision to be a private pilot.
Can you be a private pilot with glasses?
As long as your distant vision is correctable to 20/40 in each eye, and your near vision is correctable to 20/40, measured at 16 inches in each eye, a private pilot can obtain their license and wear glasses while flying. This also applies to your favorite pair of pilot sunglasses.
Yes, pilots who want to obtain and maintain a Private Pilot License can have LASIK. The vision acuity standards required for a license must be met whether that’s achieved through LASIK, PRK, contact lenses, glasses or any other corrective vision methods.
However, after surgery, you will not be allowed to fly until an eyesight specialist has determined that your vision is stable, and there has been no significant complications or adverse effects.
If a private pilot wears glasses, do they need to carry an extra pair?
The FAA does not currently have any regulation that requires pilots to travel with an extra pair of glasses, though it is highly recommended to do so.
While this is applicable to the United States, if flying internationally or entering foreign airspace, different rules may apply according to the country’s own aviation civil authorities.
Can you be a private pilot with astigmatism?
Yes, as long as your astigmatism can be corrected, you can be a private pilot.
How often will a private pilot need their vision tested?
To ensure safety, vision requirements for a private pilot license must continually be met. As a third class medical certificate expires after 36 months, this is the maximum amount of time a pilot can go between eye tests. However, if you are 40 or older, renewal is required every 24 months.
Also See: Commercial Pilot Vision Requirements