Rejected from 1st class medical


Well-Known Member
So I went to the AME to try and see if I could pass a 1st class medical (don't need it yet, as I don't have an ATP, just a commercial, but wanted to make sure I didn't have some weird medical condition that I hadn't found out about).

First thing we did was a vision test, he told me to stand about 10 feet away from this chart with letters on it and start reading, with my left eye covered up. Well, I couldn't read !*()#%&#$%*@(. I tried it with my right eye covered and I could read the whole thing perfectly, so apparantly I have some serious problems with my right eye.

My AME referred me to an optometrist and said I could probably pass the 1st class after I get glasses. I have an eye apointment this friday, and the AME said he could still pass me on the same physical if I came back within 10 days. I was extremely shocked that my eyesight had deteriorated so drastically in just 2 years!!!! when I took my 3rd class medical 2 years ago, they told me I had 20/20 vision!!!! I really don't understand this, but hopefully it will not present any insurmountable obstacles toward the pursuit of an aviation career.

Anyone know how serious this could be, and what happens if I can't get back within 10 days to finish the medical?
Don't sweat it. I've worn glasses/contacts for years.

And yes, eyesight does have a way of deteriorating fast. Just part of growing old.

Good luck!!

Keep eating carrots...

The only thing contacts/glasses will do will disqualify you for a military flight slot...or at least they did when I tried to get one.

Also, if you're going to wear contacts, make sure you get some glasses and throw them in your flight bag...had a contact pop out on me one time in the air and I was flying alone...thank god I had some glasses or it would have been a "one eye" landing which I dont think would have been the safest thing in the world.
Yah, I'll keep some glasses with me in my flight bag. I was really surprised that I couldn't read distant objects with my right eye, I've never tried looking at a distant object with my left eye covered up I guess.

Apparantly it was really bad, I was so far off I confused the doctor, he was asking "what are you reading? Are you reading this chart?". Like I said, when I tried it with my left eye I could see clearly, but my right eye just blurred all the letters, everything looked like a C or a D.

I feel almost guilty for flying this long if my right eye was this bad. No telling how dangerous it could be, I'm quite dissapointed with my right eye and don't plan on flying again (at least solo) until i get my persription.
My vision has also fluctuated over the last few years, and is now actually improving after a long period of deterioration. I almost failed my 1st class medical too.

Do use a computer frequently? I noticed a direct correlation between my vision deteriorating and my entrance into the IT field, staring at cheap CRT monitors all day. Now that I use a laptop and fly, it's getting better.

I highly advise getting back within the 10 days, I would not want a failed medical on my record. Might be future ammunition for someone.
Could be JD, but it's strange that the computer would only affect my right eye and not my left. It's not as if I use one eye when I'm on the computer.
I ran into the same problem, only it was during a 3rd class medical. Here's the story I got...

I went to renew my 3rd class, and when I did so they gave me the normal eye test that you got. I couldn't read part of it with my left eye, and the doctor went on to tell me that I had 20/40 vision. I thought to myself "What the heck are you talking about, I can see fine with both my eyes together, it's just blurry with one!" So I took my third class and went on my merry way. A few months later I made an appointment with an eye doctor so I could get some glasses before I went to try to get my 1st class medical.

The eye doctor told me some really interesting things. First off, he was insterested in flying (but only took a few lessons) so I chatted him up about that. I explained what happened with my last visit to the AME and he told me that the eye exam I was given there was not the right one. A real eye exam has to be done under the correct lighting conditions, be exactly this far away, and a bunch of other stuff. He said that no one except for eye doctors actually have the proper setup to give you a true eye exam, and said a lot of people will fail that sheet that you stand 10' in front of and cover one eye with; even though their vision is fine. I just happened to be one of those people we were soon to find out.

He went along with the eye exam, and proceeded to explain to me that I had 20/15 in my right eye, 20/15 in my left eye in my near vision, and 20/30 in my far vision. That put my eyes to 20/20 when used together. I explained to him that I needed glasses and he looked kind of confused and said " you don't." I explained that the FAA requires corrected to 20/20 vision in each aspect of each eye, not with the eyes used together. He understood what I was saying...and gave me about the weakist perscription in the history of glasses, only correcting the left eye (the right lense, for all intensive purposes, is a clear piece of glass). He wrote me out the perscription, and a note for my next AME about my eyes.

I went to the AME for my 1st class and passed the exam fine. We got to the eye exam part and I told him I'd like to try to get certified without the glasses first if I can, and I'll put em on if need be. I gave him the note from the eye doctor, and he said we'll try it. He put me into that stupid little machine. He said I could read some of the letters at the 20/15 level with one eye, and some at the 20/30 level with the others. He told me he understood what the eye doc said, and that he'd certifiy me without any restrictions but if I needed to use the glasses, he told me to throw em on. I ended up doing just that. About 6 months after my medical exam I started to notice that I thought my eyes were going downhill when trying to read text on a computer screen, so I threw the glasses on. Amazingly, all the text is now sharp and I can read things really easily. I keep the glasses on when I'm flying or driving now, and I've found it's not a huge deal.

Maybe the same thing happened with you, and you can see fine with both your eyes but not one of them.


John Herreshoff
I find it interesting that Koen would send yout an optometrist when he is an opthamologist by trade. He has helped me out in the past with a vision issue that I have. Overall, you should be fine.
Nah, he's sending me to another opthalmologist. I guess I was accidentally referring to opthalmoligsts and optometrists interchangeably in my original comments. Dr. Koen was real friendly about everything, can't speak highly enough about him. I have an appointment with one of the doctors he reffered me to tomorrow morning.
Why would he send you to another opthamologist? Is he not allowed to treat you himself because of conflict of interest or something?
I think he's semi-retired and only does flight physicals. He may not have the proper equipment to do full blown optical perscriptions at his current office, but I'm not sure.
As pscraig said, computers (and other things like studing for your writtens) can effect your vision. The key is to keep exercising your eyes. The focus is controlled by muscles. When reading or using the computer, try to look across the room momentarily from time to time, to give your eyes a stretch.

Also, your lens hardens somewhat with you reach around 40 years old. The muscles reach a point where they can't change the focus (shape) of the lens enough to focus on near objects. Low light situations make it worse, because you're using a bigger portion of an unfocussed lens.
Well, I got my glasses and easily passed the 1st class with corrective lenses (within the 10 day limit). No problems besides the eyes!
Unless you have herrendous vision (i.e. worse then legally blind), or another eye site problem passing the first class medical for eyesite should not be a problem.