Pilots and Air Traffic Controllers change their gaze frequently between objects at near, intermediate and far distances. With increasing age, the ability of the eyes to focus on near tasks decreases. This is known as presbyopia and it results in the individual requiring a prescription for near and intermediate tasks. This typically becomes apparent in the mid-forties, although it may do so at an earlier age in hyperopes and later in myopes. The prescription required increases with age, typically plateauing out in the late fifties.
In pilots and air traffic controllers the ideal presbyopic correction sometimes incorporates a distance prescription as well (even if the distance prescription is zero) so that one pair of spectacles covers all visual tasks. An intermediate zone for screen or instrument panel vision will usually also be required.
Possible forms of optical correction are:
- Contact Lenses
- Intra-ocular lens implants
All types of correction (bifocal, progressive or trifocal) are acceptable provided they are well-tolerated. Bifocals will offer distance and near correction with the near portion being a distinct segment within the lower part of the lens. There are different bifocal types: D- segment are the most prevalent and these are acceptable. Executive bifocals (where the reading portion covers the whole width of the lens) are not recommended for pilots as the lower half of the distance visual field is blurred by the reading segment. This is particularly important in helicopter pilots and with NVG use.
Progressive lenses (or varifocals) change in prescription gradually from the distance part of the lens at the top to the near portion of the lens at the bottom. These lenses will inevitably have an area of intermediate focus in-between the distance and near portions, but this should be set up for the individual using an actual eye to screen/ instrument panel measurement. Trifocal lenses are similar but have distinct segments rather than a continuous curve. It is also possible to include another intermediate portion at the very top of the lens for viewing overhead panels.
Intra-Ocular Lens Implants (IOLs)
Please refer to guidance on eye surgery.
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