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Airline Pilot Jobs scenario

Pilot Jobs – The Ever Changing Market
Guest Post by Matthew Keegan

If you are from India, and looking for Pilot Jobs in India, then you should read the other post. If you want to work as an airline pilot, and looking for airline pilot jobs, then continue reading on. If you are considering aviation as a career, and want to learn more about how to become an airline pilot, read this 8 Steps to an Airline Pilot Career. To become an airline pilot you would need to get your Commercial Pilot certificate, or license, then accumulate or build flight time to qualify for an Airline Pilot job opening. And lastly, if you are a non-US individual, you should read about how to become a pilot in the United States as well.

So you are looking for work as an airline pilot, you can’t help but notice that the news is constantly filled with information [mostly negative] about the job situation for the industry as a whole. Unfortunately, news-media only get part of the story right as the airline industry is always in a state of flux. Pilot jobs are available, but you must broaden your horizons beyond the conventional ways in which most pilots go about finding work. Let’s take a look at some of the options available to you.

Independence Air’s recent demise has thrown hundreds of Airbus pilots out of work in the US. Press reports have been painting a gloomy picture of this event, which was not unexpected by airline experts. Still, the future isn’t completely gloomy for these very same pilots, as Virgin America is expected to take flight in about one year. They plan on operating a fleet consisting of as many as 105 Airbus aircraft.

The legacy carriers have been presenting some of the most challenges for potential pilots as few, if any, are hiring. Most are in the process or have nearly completed the process of extracting “give backs” in the form of wages and benefits from their current pilot ranks. In addition, as pilots retire, available pilot jobs are filled from their lengthy lists of furloughed crew members. Certainly, the legacy carriers – American, Continental, United, Delta, Northwest, and USAirways – are currently not worth exploring as a place to look for pilot jobs.

Pilot jobs are available through many of the regional carriers. Some of these carriers include Chautauqua, Republic, Comair, Big Sky, American Eagle, Air Wisconsin, Great Lakes, and others. Pilot pay is very low, but the opportunity to fly can be very good with the regional carriers. These carriers typically fly Embraer ERJs, Canadair CRJs, or British Aerospace regional jets carrying passenger loads ranging from 50 to 100 seats.

Charter carriers have typically been a fairly good source for pilot jobs. These Part 121 operators consist of a bevy of airlines including World Airways, North American, Miami Air, Sun Country, and Ryan International. From time to time pilot job opportunities are posted directly on each airline’s web site. Check in often for the latest hiring news.

Then there is the assortment of start up airlines that have recently hired or are in the process of hiring. As you know, the failure rate for start ups is very high, but for many crew members a seat is a seat especially one that allows you to accumulate valuable and needed flight time. Two recent start ups that have taken flight include EOS Airlines and Maxjet Airways. As mentioned previously, Virgin America Airlines is in the process of passing through all of its regulatory hurdles and Primaris Airlines will be expanding its fleet over the next few years in its quest to become a full fledged airline flying scheduled routes. Other start up carriers worth watching for future pilot jobs include: Fly First Class, Baltia, and Mexus.

Discount carriers typically offer the best chance for finding pilots jobs. Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways lead the pack, but Mesa, Spirit, Alaska, Horizon, Midwest, and USA3000 have all listed pilot jobs within the past year or are planning to do so in the coming months. Pay is an issue, much lower than the legacy carriers, but you can find work.

Beyond contacting the companies directly, there are helpful web sites filled with pilot job opportunities or, at the very least, interview gouges and banter. The internet has a myriad of sites available, so I will start from the top: Aviation Employment Board, Climbto350, Flight International, Fliteinfo, Jet Movements, Landings, Parc Aviation, PPrune, Student Pilot, Thirty Thousand Feet, U.S. Aviation, and Will Fly For Food.

Finally, for the pilot who is willing to look well beyond the U.S., opportunities can exist with carriers based in the Emirates, India, China, Vietnam, and other destinations. If it is flight time you want, many have exactly what you need.

Pilot jobs are available and with a little digging and some sleuthing you can uncover for yourself a good list of companies that are worth a look. As mentioned, the industry is in a constant state of flux but the savvy pilot can work that to his or her advantage by staying on top of industry trends.

Matthew Keegan is a freelance writer based in North Carolina. You can preview samples from his high performing site at The Article Writer.

Flight Training loans, grants and scholarships are available to those who qualify, and you should definitely ask yourself these 5 questions before you begin your flight training. and here is an explanation of the pilot certificates and licenses available, both as a career pilot or as a recreational or hobby pilot.

I want to be That Guy

This blog is about General Aviation and Flight Training. So far I have been writing about flying lessons in an airplane, as this is what I have been involved in as a professional pilot and flight instructor. Even though before I got into airplanes, I used to fly gliders. And during my own flight training I got me an opportunity to sky dive, which was a total blast!

As a matter of fact, a few weeks ago I decided to drive down to the Lodi, CA airport, which is right off highway 99, and got some information on taking some professional sky diving lessons. I was hoping to be able to do this before I get back to working full time again. And today, a friend and a former student Christophe (from France) sent me a link to this cool Hang Glider pilot’s video on YouTube, and now I am thinking….:-)

I want to be that Guy – Nicholas Cage

Guest Post and Commenting Guidelines

I get many emails from people who want to know if I allow guest posts on General Aviation Flight Training blog- iflyasa.com, and if yes, what are the guidelines. I figured that it would be wise to write the guidelines in a post and just refer every one here.

So the answer to the first question is: Yes, I do accept guest posts. Currently I just publish one guest post per week though, usually on Wednesdays. Below you will find all the details about the process.

What kind of content do you accept?

Anything that is useful for our readers is good content for a guest post here. It can be related to general aviation, flight training, aviation technology, aviation history, airlines, aircraft, and related topics, and it can also be derived from your own personal experiences. There is no minimum length for your post, but usually the guest posts have over 500 words.

Guidelines

  • Your post must be original and must have never been published before on the Internet
  • You agree to not publish the post anywhere else (i.e., in your own blog or as a guest post in other blogs)
  • You can include up to two links in the byline, which will be displayed at the bottom of the post
  • You may use SEOd anchor text for your links, but I will have to approve each one (non-compete)

How do I submit my guest post?

If you have a post that meets the guidelines above, you can send it to me via the email admin@pilotology.com. Usually within 48 hours I will reply stating if we will accept the guest post or not. If I reject your post, you are obviously free to use it in your own blog or to propose it as a guest post to some other website.

Why should I consider Guest Posting on this blog?

I am sure the webmasters and professionals already know the answer to this one. However, I want COMMENTERS who leave irrelevant comments on my posts, with link backs to their own sites, to understand that those comments never even get published as I review each and every comment before it gets published. So, save yourself all the energy, and read the following paragraph:

There is no such thing as free links, or free marketing. It does not exist for me, so it does not exist for you either. If you want a link from iflyasa.com blog (Google PR4, with over 500+ unique AND qualified visitors a day) to your site, the most economic way to do this is to CONTRIBUTE with an informational post. Share something that our visitors can learn from, or enjoy reading, and then you can have that link to your site. You can email me to get some ideas if you wish.

The other way is to consider advertising with us! This is a paid service, but you definitely will get visitors checking out your site.

Amazing NTSB (Animation) US Airways Airbus Crash Ditching in Hudson

NTSB’s investigation hearings of the Jan 15th, 2009 US Airways’ Airbus Flight 1549 bird-strike incident which led to the ditching of the aircraft in Hudson river have generated some potential recommendations – developing an on-aircraft anti-bird technology for rounding-up and wiping-out thousands of Canada Geese. At the hearings, Airbus test pilots supported Captain Sullenberger’s decision; to ditch the aircraft in the river instead of trying to make LaGuardia or Teterboro airports.

Airbus’ fly by wire system was commended for allowing Capt. Sullenberger to maintain the best airspeed for the ditching simply by holding the joystick in full aft position and letting the computers do the the rest; not letting the aircraft stall while he simply maintained the wings level.The hearings also reviewed and made public a rather compelling NTSB video animation with overlay-ed ATC audio and CVR content (textual). A board member’s call for more research into onboard bird-repellant or bird-deterrent technologies is supported by at least one study, conducted by Qantas and Precise Flight, which concluded that aircraft equipped with pulsed landing light system resulted in fewer bird strikes.

2004 Tests conducted by the U.S. Agriculture Department were less definitive; but further research (specifically, into flash frequency and light wavelengths) may be recommended by the NTSB.

Selecting Sunglasses for Pilots

Pilot Sunglasses – Aviator

A Summary of how to select best Sunglasses for Pilots

Here is the summary of things to keep in mind while selecting the best sunglasses for pilots, and for that matter, just about anyone who wants to protect his or her vision and have the best quality visual perception. There are other articles (listed at the bottom of this post) on this blog which talk about all this in great detail. Maybe you should read all those articles as well to gain maximum knowledge on the subject. 

SUMMARY.

  1. While adding to the mystique of an aviator, sunglasses protect a pilot’s eyes from glare associated with bright sunlight and the harmful effects from exposure to solar radiation.
  2. Lenses for sunglasses that incorporate 100% ultraviolet protection are available in glass, plastic, and polycarbonate materials. Glass and CR-39® plastic lenses have superior optical qualities, while polycarbonate lenses are lighter and more impact-resistant.
  3. The choice of tints for use in the aviation environment should be limited to those that optimize visual performance while minimizing color distortion, such as a neutral gray tint with 15 to 30% light transmittance.
  4. Polarized sunglasses are not recommended because of their possible interaction with displays or other materials in the cockpit environment.
  5. Since sunglasses are an important asset, whether or not refractive correction is required, careful consideration should be used when selecting an appropriate pair for flying.
  6. The technology associated with ophthalmic lenses is continually evolving, with the introduction of new materials, designs, and manufacturing techniques.
  7. Aviators should consult with their eye care practitioner for the most effective alternatives currently available when choosing a new pair of sunglasses.

References

  1. La Comission Interntionale de l’Eclairage (CIE). Figures correspond broadly to the effects of UVR on biological tissue.
  2. World Meteorological Organization. Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion: 1994, WMO Global Ozone Research and Monitoring Project – Report No. 37, Geneva, Switzerland: 1995.
  3. Rash CE, Manning SD. For Pilots, Sunglasses are Essential in Vision Protection, Flight Safety Foundation Human Factors & Aviation Medicine, July-August 2002; 49(4): 1-8.
  4. MEDICAL FACTS FOR PILOTS Publication AM-400-05/1 Written by Ronald W. Montgomery, B.S. Van B. Nakagawara, O.D. Prepared by FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute Aerospace Medical Education Division AAM-400, P.O. Box 25082 Oklahoma City, OK 73125
Tony Scott – Top Gun – the movie

Sean D. Tucker with Oprah Winfrey (video)

Ok guys. The other day I wrote about Sean D. Tucker, the world famous aerobatic pilot, who also is an honorary Thunderbird and Blue Angel, and performs for the the Team Oracle, and was supposed to be on Oprah’s TV show. If you did not get a chance to get the courage, or time, to sit and watch that show, here is a YouTube video recording of the show for you.

And if you do not know who Sean Tucker is, you can click here and read all about him in my previous post. The show was nice; with Sean in it, of course. His competition this time, for the time and attention on the Oprah was Oprah’s new favorite pair of jeans. Obviously, we don’t have the jeans part in this video. If you really want to watch that segment, the one with her jeans, you can always go to YouTube and search for it.

Sean is the only civilian pilot that I know of, who has flown in formation with the Blue Angels, Thunderbirds , and the Canadian Snowbirds. He has many other awards, recognitions, and things like that under his belt.

He trained with Amelia Reid; the first lady of aviation of California at Reid Hillview airport, San Jose, CA. And BTW, so did Rod Machado.

We’ll talk about Amelia Reid and Rod Machado some other time. Now go ahead and watch the Sean Tucker and Oprah video, and leave a comment here if you wish.

Next Generation Air Transportation System – NextGen

The Future of Aviation

NextGen, shorthand for the Next Generation Air Transportation System, refers to a wide-ranging initiative to transform the air traffic control system. It focuses on leveraging new technologies, such as satellite-based navigation, surveillance, and networking. The initiative involves meaningful collaboration among government departments and agencies as well as companies in the aerospace and related industries.

Currently, the U.S. air transportation system handles roughly 50,000 flights over a 24-hour period. By 2025, air traffic is projected to increase two-to-three fold, equating to 100,000-150,000 flights every 24 hours. It is acknowledged that the current U.S. air transportation system will not be able to meet these air traffic demands.

In transforming the national airspace system, JPDO is working with the FAA , NASA , the Departments of Transportation , Defense , Homeland Security , Commerce , and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy .

The Senior Policy Committee of JPDO directs the NextGen initiative. The committee is chaired by the Secretary of Transportation, and includes the Undersecretary for Policy of the Department of Transportation; Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration; Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; Secretary of the United States Air Force, representing the Department of Defense; Deputy Secretary of the Department of Commerce; Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security; and the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

There are nine capabilities that will enable the transformation of the national air transportation system. The NextGen capabilities are as follows:

  1. Integrated NextGen Information
  2. Separation Management
  3. Capacity Management
  4. Trajectory Management
  5. Security
  6. Flow Contingency Management
  7. Environment
  8. Safety
  9. Flexible Airport and Surface Operations

Providing a high level of security in air transportation is a major goal for NextGen, which envisions a layered, adaptive security system.  This means a system that depends on multiple technologies, policies, and procedures that adapt to individual situations, and can change according to the threat level.  Other security measures will be in place as additional roadblocks to neutralize the threat, whether it is in the airport, on the plane, or in the air.

Intercontinental travel is, of course, a key element of the world’s air transportation system.  “Global Harmonization” is the technical term for coordinating NextGen activities with our counterparts throughout the world.

The FAA entered into an agreement with the European Commission (EC), which formalized cooperation between the NextGen initiative and its European counterpart, the Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research (SESAR) program.  The FAA and EC are following through to identify opportunities and, as appropriate, establish timelines to implement common, interoperable, performance-based air traffic management systems and technologies.

And by the way, the ability to track any flight, whether commercial airline flights, or privately owned Cessna aircraft, from the convenience of your computer is already available, and I have talked about it in my other post – Live Flight Tracking. And it is Free.

ADS-B; Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast is one of the initiatives of the JPDO’s NextGen program. You can read all about it here; and watch the video as well. It is pretty cool!

Sean D. Tucker with Oprah Winfrey this Thursday

Sean Tucker,

well known aerobatic pilot from the bay area California is scheduled to be on Oprah Winfrey Show tomorrow. So, those of you who do not watch this show regularly (I know I don’t), tune in tomorrow and see what’s up. Or use your TIVO or something. Sean performs for Team Oracle, and is the only civilian pilot who has ever been authorized to and fly in close formation with the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels. He has received various awards in his amazing career, and honorary Blue Angel and Thunderbird are just the two examples.

Sean has trained with the legendary Amelia Reid. Here watch this video of Sean Tucker’s amazing performance. If you click on the links above for Thunderbird and Blue Angels, your can see videos of their performance as well.

UPDATE: If you missed the show, you can watch a video by clicking here. It was pretty cool to watch him with Oprah, and how he says that you become one with the airplane.

Laser Eye Surgery for Pilots

Currently, about 55% of the civilian pilots in the United States must utilize some form of refractive correction to meet the vision requirements for medical certification. While spectacles are the most common choice for aviators, recent studies show a growing number of pilots have opted for refractive surgical procedures, which include laser refractive surgery. The information in this brochure describes the benefits as well as possible pitfalls laser refractive surgery offers to those considering these procedures.

What is Refractive Error?

Refractive error prevents light rays from being brought to a single focus on the retina resulting in reduced visual acuity. To see clearly, refractive errors are most often corrected with ophthalmic lenses (glasses, contact lenses). The three principal types of refractive conditions are myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism. Another ophthalmic condition that also results in blurred near vision is called presbyopia. Presbyopia is a progressive loss of accommodation (decreased ability to focus at near distance due to physiological changes in the eye’s crystalline lens) that normally occurs around 40 years of age. Bifocals or reading glasses are necessary to correct this condition.

Myopia (nearsightedness, distant objects appear fuzzy) is a condition in which light rays are focused in front of the retina. About 30% of Americans are myopic. Hyperopia (farsightedness, near objects appear fuzzy) is a condition in which light rays are focused behind the retina. An estimated 40% of Americans are hyperopic. However, this number may not be accurate. Young hyperopes (< 40 years), who can compensate for their farsightedness with their ability to accommodate, are often not counted in this number and some studies incorrectly include presbyopes, who also require plus power lenses to see clearly.

Astigmatism is a condition often caused from an irregular curvature of the cornea. As a result, light is not focused to a single image on the retina. Astigmatism can cause blurred vision at any distance and may occur in addition to myopic or hyperopic conditions. Approximately 60% of the population has some astigmatism.

What is Laser Refractive Surgery?

In October 1995, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of the excimer laser to perform a refractive procedure called Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK). PRK improves visual acuity by altering the curvature of the cornea through a series of laser pulses. The laser photoablates (vaporizes) the corneal tissue to a predetermined depth and diameter. PRK can be used to correct myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism. Reported PRK problems such as postoperative pain, prolonged healing period, increased risk of infection, and glare (halos) at night, has resulted in Laser in situ Keratomileusis (LASIK) becoming the preferred choice for refractive surgery by patients and eye care practitioners. A survey in the United States found that the percentage of refractive surgeons performing PRK had decreased from 26% in 1997 to less than 1% in 2002.

LASIK is performed using two FDA approved devices: the microkeratome and excimer laser. During the LASIK procedure, the microkeratome slices a thin flap from the top of the cornea, leaving it connected by a small hinge of tissue. The corneal flap is folded aside and the excimer laser is used to reshape the underlying corneal stroma. The flap is then returned to its original position.

Is LASIK an Option for Me?

An eye care specialist should thoroughly evaluate your current ocular health and correction requirements to determine whether you are a suitable candidate for refractive surgery. Clinical trials have established the following selection criteria for LASIK.

Selection Criteria:

  • Age 18 years or older
  • Stable refractive error (less than .50 diopters [D] change within the last year) correctable to 20/40 or better
  • Less than – 15.00 D of myopia and up to 6 to 7 D of astigmatism
  • Less than + 6.00 D of hyperopia and less than 6 D of astigmatism
  • No gender restriction, with the exception of pregnancy
  • Pupil size less than or equal to 6 mm (in normal room lighting)
  • Realistic expectations of fi nal results (with a complete understanding of the benefits, as well as the possible risks)

In addition to conforming to the above criteria, it is important that you possess normal ocular health and be free of pre-existing conditions that may contraindicate LASIK.

Contraindications:

  • Collagen vascular disease (corneal ulceration or melting)
  • Ocular disease (dry eye, keratoconus, glaucoma, incipient cataracts, herpes simplex keratitis, corneal edema)
  • Systemic disorders (diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, HIV, AIDS)
  • History of side effects from steroids
  • Signs of keratoconus
  • Use of some acne medication (e.g., Accutane and/or Cordarone)

Is LASIK Safe for Pilots?

Aviators considering LASIK should know that in initial FDA trials reporting high success rates (> 90%) and low complication rates (<1%), the criteria for success varied. In most clinical studies, success was defined as 20/40 or better distant uncorrected visual acuity (UCVA) under normal room lighting with high contrast targets, not 20/20 or better UCVA. While the majority of patients do experience dramatic improvement in vision after laser refractive surgery, there is no guarantee that perfect UCVA will be the final outcome.

Even successful procedures may leave many patients with a small amount of residual refractive error that requires an ophthalmic device (eyeglasses or contact lenses) to obtain 20/20 visual acuity. If overcorrection results, patients may need reading glasses. Compared to its predecessor (PRK), LASIK requires higher technical skill by the surgeon because a corneal flap must be created. Although rare, loss of best corrected visual acuity (BCVA) can occur when there are surgical complications such as those summarized below.

Surgical Complications:

  • Decentered or detached corneal flap
  • Decentered ablation zone
  • Button-hole flap (flap cut too thin resulting in a hole)
  • Perforation of the eye

Operation of an aircraft is a visually demanding activity performed in an environment that is not always user friendly. This becomes particularly evident if the choice of vision correction is ill-suited for the task. While the risk of serious vision-threatening complications after having LASIK is low (< 1%), some complications could have a significant impact on visual performance in a cockpit environment.

Relative Risk of Post-Surgical Complications:

Prolonged healing periods:
  • 3 months or more
  • Night glare (halos, starbursts): 1 in 50
  • Under/over-correction: less than 1 in 100
  • Increased intraocular pressure: non significant
  • Corneal haze: 1 in 1,000
  • Corneal scarring: non significant
  • Loss of BCVA: 1 in 100
  • Infection: 1 in 5,000
  • Corneal flap complications (dislocated flap, epithelialin growth): less than 1 in 100

Following LASIK, patients are cautioned to avoid rubbing their eyes and to stay out of swimming pools, hot tubs, or whirlpools for at least a week. Contact sports should be avoided for a minimum of 2 weeks, and many eye surgeons recommend wearing safety eyewear while playing sports. Even after the patient’s vision has stabilized and healing appears complete, the corneal flap may not be completely readhered. There have been reports of corneal flap displacement due to trauma up to 38 months after the procedure.After surgery, patients are cautioned to not wear eye makeup or use lotions and creams around their eyes for a minimum of 2 weeks and to discard all previously used makeup to reduce the risk of infection.

In some instances, LASIK may be an option for patients with higher refractive error than can be safely corrected with PRK or those with conditions that can delay healing (e.g., lupus, rheumatoid arthritis). Since LASIK minimizes the area of the epithelium surgically altered, it reduces some of the risks associated with delayed healing. Additionally, ablation of the underlying stromal tissue results in less corneal haze and the tendency for the cornea to revert back to the original refractive condition during the healing process (refractive regression), which improves predictability. Most patients do not require long-term, postoperative steroid use, decreasing the possibility of steroid-induced complications (cataract, glaucoma).

As with any invasive procedure, there are surgical risks, and the recovery process often varies with each individual. Post-LASIK patients report experiencing mild irritation, sensitivity to bright light, and tearing for a few days after surgery. For most, vision stabilizes within 3 months to near-predicted results, and residual night glare usually diminishes within 6 months. In rare cases, symptoms have lingered longer than a year. Earlier versions of LASIK used a smaller ablation zone which sometimes resulted in glare problems at night.

Ablation zones have an area of transition between treated and untreated corneal tissue. As the pupil dilates and becomes larger than the ablation zone, light (car headlights, streetlights, and traffic signals lights) entering through these transition areas becomes distorted, resulting in aberrations perceived as glare. These patients often complain of difficulties seeing under low-light conditions. Patients that develop postoperative haze during the healing process have complained of glare (halos and starbursts). Furthermore, it has been reported that exposure to ultraviolet radiation or bright sunlight may result in refractive regression and late-onset corneal haze. It is therefore recommended that all refractive surgery patients wear sunglasses with UV protection and to refrain from using tanning beds
for several months after surgery.

For those with larger amounts of refractive correction, the predictability of the resulting refractive correction is less exact. This can lead to under-correction (requiring an additional laser enhancement procedure and/or corrective lenses) or over-correction of the refractive error. In the case of overcorrection, premature presbyopia and the need for reading glasses can result. It has been reported that there can be a slower recovery of BCVA and UCVA with hyperopic LASIK compared with those having myopic LASIK. This is especially true for older patients who may be even less likely to achieve UCVA of 20/20 or better. (Note: Loss of BCVA is reportedly 5 to 15 times more likely with refractive surgery than from the use of extended-wear contact lenses.)

Older patients with presbyopia may opt for monovision LASIK, which corrects the dominant eye for distant vision and the other eye for near vision. The procedure is intended to eliminate the need for a patient to wear corrective lenses for near and distant vision.

Anisometropia (difference in correction between the eyes) induced by monovision may result in decreased binocular vision, contrast sensitivity, and stereo acuity. After an adaptation period, patients are often able to see and function normally. Patients who report blurred vision, difficulty with night driving, and other visual tasks in low-light conditions typically do not adapt to monovision and may require an enhancement on their non-dominant eye so that both eyes are fully
corrected for distant vision. Airmen who seek monovision correction should consult an eye care practitioner to assist them in compliance with standards outlined in the “Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners (see below):

Airmen who opt for monovision LASIK must initially wear correction (i.e., glasses or contact lens) for near vision eye while operating an aircraft. After a 6-month period of adaptation, they may apply for a Statement of Demonstrated Ability (SODA) with a medical flight test. If the airman is successful, the lens requirement is removed from their medical certificate.

Advances in Refractive Surgery

Wavefront LASIK

Eye care specialists have traditionally used standard measurement techniques that identify and correct lower-order aberrations, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. However, no two people share the same eye irregularities or have similar refractive needs. Vision is unique and as personal as fingerprints or DNA. Wavefront technology allows eye surgeons to customize the LASIK procedure for each eye, providing the possibility of even better vision.
The FDA approved the first system for general use in October 2002. A laser beam is sent through the eye to the retina and is reflected back through the pupil, measuring the irregularities of the light wave (wavefront) as it emerges from the eye. This process produces a three dimensional map of the eye’s optical system. Measuring the cornea’s imperfections or aberrations in this way allows the refractive surgeon to develop a personalized treatment plan for the patient’s unique vision needs. Correcting the patient’s specific imperfections can result in sharper vision, better contrast sensitivity, and reduces problems associated with higher-order aberrations after surgery
, such as haloes and blurred images. Studies indicate that 90-94% of patients receiving wavefront LASIK achieved visual acuity of 20/20 or better. However, those with thin corneas, high degrees of aberrations, severe dry eyes, or conditions affecting the lens and vitreous fluid inside the eye may not be good candidates for wavefront LASIK.

Other Advances in Refractive Surgery

The eye’s optical system creates a limit as to how wide and deep the laser ablation should be, i.e., the wider the ablation, the deeper the laser must ablate into the cornea, which may result in delayed healing and prolonged visual recovery. The development of new lasers allows the creation of a wider ablation zone while removing the least amount of tissue. Studies have shown that this reduces problems with night vision and other side effects associated with laser refractive surgery.

Laser technology that provides variable optical zone sizes and beam shapes with scanning capabilities allows the eye surgeon greater flexibility in developing a more personalized laser vision procedure. A spot laser may be adjusted so minimal spherical aberrations are produced and a larger optical zone is created. Results from clinical trials indicate that 67% of eyes had UCVA of 20/16 or better and 25% had 20/12.5 or better. Additionally, there was an overall improvement in nighttime visual function and night driving, which is achieved by preserving the optical zone size and better shaping of the ablation profile.

During traditional LASIK, the corneal flap is created with a mechanical microkeratome manipulated by the surgeon’s hand. While this method has worked well over the years, the performance of these devices can be unpredictable and is the source of a majority of surgical complications. These difficulties result in irregularities in thickness between the central and peripheral areas of the flap that can induce postoperative astigmatism.

The IntraLase Femtosecond Laser Keratome, which received FDA approval in December 1999, is the first blade-free technology for creating the corneal flap. The laser keratome beam passes into the cornea at a predetermined depth, producing a precise cut that is reportedly more accurate than the microkeratome. Corneal flaps made with the laser keratome appear to adhere more tightly to the corneal bed at the end of the procedure, which may eliminate problems with
long-term flap displacement. A reported disadvantage to this new technology is that surgical time is increased, leaving the stroma exposed several minutes longer, which has led to reported complaints of photophobia and eye irritation for up to two days after surgery. While it may take longer (4 to 7 days) to recover good vision, the approach appears to be associated with a lower incidence of dry eyes, corneal complications, and enhancement procedures compared with traditional LASIK.

The FAA requires that civil airmen with refractive surgical procedures (e.g., PRK, LASIK) discontinue flying until their eye care specialist has determined that their vision is stable and there are no significant adverse effects or complications. The airman should submit one of two documents to the FAA (a report from their eye care specialist or “Report of Eye Evaluation” [FAA-8500-7]). These reports can be submitted directly to the Aerospace Medical Certification Division
when released from care, or to their Aviation Medical Examiner during their next flight physical. This report should state: “. . . . that the airman meets the visual acuity standards and the report of eye evaluation indicates healing is complete, visual acuity remains stable, and the applicant does not suffer sequela, such as
glare intolerance, halos, rings, impaired night vision, or any other complications. . . .” (Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners, July 2005)

If you are a pilot contemplating refractive surgery, consult an eye care specialist to determine if you are a good candidate for laser refractive surgery. Although the FAA and most major air carriers allow laser refractive surgery, professional aviators should consider how it could affect their occupational and certification status. As with any invasive procedure, there are many variables that can influence the final outcome. You should understand all risks as well as the benefits before electing to have a procedure performed that could compromise your visual performance in the cockpit.

MEDICAL FACTS FOR PILOTS Publication OK-06-148 Written by: Van B. Nakagawara, O.D., F.A.A.O. Kathryn J. Wood, CPOT Ron W. Montgomery, B.S.