Good eyesight is critical in many professions and pursuits, but for pilots it’s especially critical. The ability to see and avoid other traffic and runway hazards, or to read instruments and charts in difficult, sometimes turbulent conditions, can literally be a matter of life and death.
I’ve had the privilege of performing LASIK surgery for many pilots – professionals in the military and the airlines, and dedicated amateurs for whom safety is every bit as important. You can see and hear them discuss their LASIK experience and describe what the procedure has meant to them.
Because I know what LASIK can mean to pilots, I was happy to see this advisory by the American Refractive Surgery Council. In it, Dr. Steve Schallhorn describes the advantages of LASIK for pilots:
Using the latest LASIK technology, it’s possible to safely correct vision with a high degree of precision. At the same time, it can eliminate aviator concerns about glasses being dislodged during turbulence, or contact lenses causing irritation or problems with glare. In an emergency there’s more than enough for a pilot to deal with. Anything that reduces the task list helps keep you safer, and LASIK can do that while providing excellent vision, which in itself enhances safety.
Dr. Schallhorn should know. In addition to being a noted LASIK surgeon, he’s a former U.S. Navy F-14 Top Gun pilot, and founded the Department of Defense refractive surgery program. The military knows the value of LASIK for its best aviators and other specialized personnel. The Navy offers LASIK to pilots and SEAL commandos. The Air Force has recently expanded its LASIK program to include a wide variety of pilots and aircrew. And NASA allows LASIK for members of the astronaut corps.
If you’re a pilot considering LASIK, you’ll want to thoroughly research the risks and benefits, and find out if you’re a good candidate. A place to start is the Federal Aviation Administration’s Aviation Medicine Advisory Service (AMAS) website, which provides extensive guidance, including a downloadable booklet entitled “Information for Pilots considering laser eye surgery” (www.faa.gov/pilots/safety/pilotsafetybrochures/media/lasereye_ii.pdf) . The American Optometric Association offers detailed information, and the American Refractive Surgery Council offers a wide range of information and advice. Visit www.americanrefractivesurgerycouncil.org.
Of course, we’d be happy to talk with any of you who are pilots, and help you think about how LASIK can help you enhance your flying profession, or passion, or both.