Can You Be a Pilot with Glasses? Understanding FAA Vision Standards and Requirements

Ever wondered if your glasses could clip your wings and shatter your dreams of becoming a pilot? You’re not alone. It’s a common concern among many aspiring aviators. But, here’s some good news: wearing glasses usually doesn’t mean you’re grounded.

There’s quite a bit of confusion and misinformation out there about vision requirements for pilots. It’s time to clear the air. While perfect vision is ideal, it’s not a hard and fast rule in the aviation industry.

So, can you be a pilot with glasses? The short answer is: Yes, you can. But, as with most things in life, there are certain conditions and limitations. Let’s delve into the specifics and uncover the truth behind the specs.

Key Takeaways

  • Wearing glasses doesn’t automatically disqualify someone from becoming a pilot. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has specific vision standards for pilots that can be met with or without corrective lenses.
  • The distance vision standards for commercial pilots (first and second class medical certificate holders) require 20/20 vision in each eye, corrected or uncorrected. However, for student and private pilots (third class medical certificate holders), the requirements are slightly more lenient, allowing for 20/40 vision.
  • All pilots, regardless of class, must possess the ability to perceive colors necessary for safe flight, critical for identifying signaling lights, cockpit instruments, and airport charts.
  • If a pilot does not meet these standards without correction, the FAA approves a list of acceptable corrective lenses, monocles, and contact lenses.
  • The FAA requires pilots needing corrective lenses to carry a spare pair of glasses during flights. Those with bifocals or trifocals must also meet specific acuity standards for intermediate and near vision.
  • The common myth that pilots need to have perfect 20/20 vision is debunked. What’s important is the corrected vision meeting the FAA’s standards for safety and performance.

Those aspiring to be pilots with glasses can indeed pursue their dreams, as AMAS explains that pilots and controllers must meet the FAA’s vision standards with or without corrective lenses. The FAA provides a comprehensive PDF on medical standards for pilots, detailing specific vision requirements for various certifications. For more insights, Redbird Flight Simulations discusses how vision acuity with corrective lenses plays into the requirements for different pilot certificates.

Vision Requirements for Pilots

What does it take to have ‘pilot eyes’? Is 20/20 vision mandatory to fly a plane? Not necessarily. While vision standards in aviation can be stringent but they’re certainly not impossible for eyeglass wearers to meet. What’s crucial here are two main aspects: your distance vision and your ability to distinguish color.

Distance Vision

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) sets the rules for vision requirements for pilots in the United States. According to FAA guidelines, to qualify for a first- or second-class medical certificate, that’s essentially commercial pilots, your distant vision must be 20/20 or better in each eye with or without correction.

FAA Allowable Vision Standards for Pilots

Medical CertificateUnaided Vision
First Class20/20
Second Class20/20
Third Class20/40

On the other hand, third-class medical certificate holders, which include student and private pilots, are allowed to have a minimum distant vision of 20/40 in each eye with or without glasses.

Color Vision

Being able to distinguish color is a critical safety aspect in aviation. It’s necessary for identifying signaling lights, cockpit instruments, and airport charts. So, according to FAA guidelines again, all classes of pilot certifications require the ability to perceive colors necessary for safe flight.

What if you don’t exactly meet these standards? Don’t worry! FAA approves a list of acceptable corrective lenses, monocles, and even contact lenses. So, wearing glasses while flying is perfectly fine as long as it corrects your vision to meet the set standards.

Myth vs. Reality: The Truth About Perfect Vision

There’s a prevailing myth that the world of soaring skies, beyond the glass of an airplane’s cockpit, is reserved for individuals with picture-perfect vision. You’ve might’ve heard this whispered across the carpeted floors of airports: a pair of glasses is your one-way ticket to a grounded life, forever dreaming of the clouds while sitting at tables with those who never dared to reach for the door to the sky. But is that the truth? Let’s separate fact from fiction, pulling up a chair to delve into the real requirements set by those who govern the skies.

Here’s the reality – the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) doesn’t demand perfect 20/20 vision from all pilots. Instead, they have set specific vision standards, distinct for different pilot classes, much like the different types of aircraft that grace the hangars. A commercial pilot, chasing first- and second-class medical certificates, needs 20/20 vision, as sharp as the view through a freshly cleaned glass window. However, if you’re a student or a private pilot, even 20/40 vision can qualify you to command the aircraft, proving that the sky’s not just for the eagles but for anyone with the heart to soar.

That leads us to another significant point. Color vision. An irreplaceable resource, it enables pilots to distinguish aviation map features, light signals, and crucial cockpit instructions, as essential as the acuity needed to navigate the complex airways. It’s as crucial as ensuring the door is locked before flight. If you struggle with color blindness, workaround options are available, including specific FAA-approved tests, opening the runway to dreams that once seemed barricaded behind the unyielding glass of impossibility.

Here’s another surprise. The FAA not only accepts but also embraces the use of corrective lenses, monocles, and contact lenses. As long as you meet the vision standards, glasses aren’t a barrier. So if you’re nearsighted, farsighted, or even if you have astigmatism, don’t let your dreams of flying disintegrate. Maintain good eye health, wear your corrective lenses, and the open skies can be your playground.

Through this revelation, it’s clear that the concept of pilots needing flawless vision is enmeshed in myth rather than being a certified reality. Operative word being ‘flawless’ here. While vision is undeniably criticial, the less-than-perfect sight is not an automatic disqualifier from being a pilot. After all, the FAA’s vision requirements are there to ensure safety and performance – not to deter individuals with glasses from taking flight.

The guidance from the FAA proves it’s more about adhering to regulations and less about perfection. That’s the truth, amidst a sea of misperceptions. It’s safe to say, the sky isn’t just for the 20/20 visionaries. It’s open to anyone who dares to soar, glasses and all.

Can You Be a Pilot with Glasses?

Clearing the air on the controversy, yes, you can be a pilot with glasses. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) acknowledges that not all of us have perfect vision. They have no objection to pilots using glasses, bifocals, trifocals, and even contact lenses to meet the necessary vision requirements.

When it comes to vision acuity, the FAA requires you to have 20/20 vision for commercial pilots. But don’t worry! If you’re short-sighted or long-sighted, you’re permitted to wear glasses or contact lenses that correct your vision to 20/20. And the requirement is slightly relaxed for student and private pilots, who only need to have 20/40 vision.

Use of corrective lenses for pilots: When it comes to corrective lenses, it’s crucial to keep in mind a few essential things:

  • You must carry a spare pair of glasses if you need them for flying.
  • For those with bifocals or trifocals, the intermediate and near vision must also meet the specific acuity standards set by the FAA.

What’s more, accommodation standards are also in place if you need reading glasses. If you’re over 50, the FAA requires you to have intermediate vision acuity (simple tasks such as viewing instruments in the cockpit) and near vision acuity (more intricate tasks such as reading small print).

Conditions and Limitations to Consider

While it’s possible to be a pilot with glasses, there are certain conditions and limitations you should be aware of. These mainly involve meeting the vision standards set by the FAA and the requirement to carry a spare pair of corrective lenses.

Your glasses or contact lenses must enable you to meet rigorous vision standards. For commercial pilots, this means having 20/20 distance acuity in each eye. If you’re a student or private pilot, the requirement is slightly relaxed to 20/40 acuity. But remember, this isn’t about perfect vision—it’s about corrected vision.

There are also specific acuity standards for intermediate and near vision that must be met. Intermediate vision pertains to viewing objects at a distance of 32 to 40 inches. Near vision, on the other hand, refers to viewing objects within 16 inches.

If you’re 50 or older and need reading glasses, don’t fret! FAA has accommodation standards for this age group. You should, however, ensure your glasses don’t interfere with key flight routines like visualizing instrument panels or navigating aircraft systems.

Your glasses or contacts must be comfortable and fit well, as you’ll be wearing them for extended periods of time during flights. They should not distract you or cause any discomfort that might affect your performance.

It’s crucial that you carry a spare pair of glasses or contacts as a backup. It’s not just a good idea—it’s a requirement. This ensures you’re never left in a precarious situation without your corrective lenses during a flight.

While these conditions might seem stringent, they’re in place to ensure safety and high performance. Remember, flying isn’t about perfect eyesight – it’s about efficiency and progress on the wing.


So, can you be a pilot with glasses? Absolutely! As long as you meet the FAA vision standards, you’re good to go. It’s all about corrected vision, not perfect vision. Whether it’s distance, intermediate, or near vision, as long as it’s corrected to the required acuity, you’re set. Over 50 and need reading glasses? No problem! Just ensure they’re comfortable and fit well for those long flights. And remember, always have a spare pair handy. It’s a safety and performance measure that can’t be overlooked. Flying isn’t about having flawless eyesight, it’s about efficiency and progress. So, don your glasses or contacts and let your dreams take flight!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can pilots wear glasses or contacts?

Yes, pilots can wear either glasses or contacts. The FAA emphasizes on corrected vision over perfect vision. This applies to distance, intermediate and near vision. It’s important that the eyewear fits properly and comfortably due to extended wear during flights.

What are the FAA vision standards for pilots?

FAA vision standards ensure pilots can see clearly at different distances. Pilots need 20/20 distant vision (corrected or uncorrected). For intermediate vision at ages 50 and over, a corrected vision of 20/40 is permitted for near vision. However, the use of monovision lenses is unacceptable.

Are pilots over 50 allowed to use reading glasses?

Indeed, pilots over 50 are allowed to use reading glasses. These glasses help them meet the FAA’s intermediate and near vision requirement. They must also ensure the glasses are comfortable and well-fitted for extended wear.

Why do pilots need to carry a spare pair of glasses or contacts?

It is a requirement from FAA that pilots carry a spare pair of corrective lenses. This is a safety and performance measure intended to ensure that even if something happens to their primary pair, pilots can still ensure efficiency and progression with their spare pair.

Is flying more about perfect vision or efficiency?

While vision is important for pilots, the FAA standards focus on efficiency and progress in flying, rather than perfect, uncorrected vision. Corrected vision, even with glasses or contacts, in line with FAA’s standards, is considered sufficient.