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A pilot’s eyes

A pilot’s eyes Old Dr. Pate

Pilot’s Logbook I got out of flying full time because I never had the eyesight required to become an airline pilot or a Navy pilot, and I got tired of flying charters -- sitting around airports for six hours waiting for my passengers to return. I liked full-time flight instruction, loved it actually, but it never paid enough to live comfortably. Today, a pilot can make a living working as a full-time flight instruction, but back in the day, it was extremely difficult because the average pay was so low. As I’ve mentioned before, being a crop duster, which is what I wanted to do after I moved to South Texas and saw my first crop duster flying low across a cotton field, was a closed profession to outsiders. The insurance companies wouldn’t insure a pilot unless he/she had x amount of hours dusting. Total flight time didn’t count; and the only way to get time crop dusting was finding an owner who would let you fly his crop duster uninsured until you built up the time the insurance companies wanted. Good luck with that. To become a naval aviator, which was always my dream – takeoffs from a carrier deck in a fighter jet, coolest job in aviation, in my opinion – demands perfect vision. Which counted me out from the get-go. Not only perfect vision is demanded of naval aviators, but flawless vision if you want to get right down to it. At least 20/20, but what the Navy’s really looking for are the guys with 20/10. Which means, you can see something at 20 feet what the “normal person” sees at 10 feet. The 20/20 obviously means you see the same object at 20 feet that the person with “normal vision” sees at the same distance, i.e. 20 feet. My vision, uncorrected, is something like 20/100. I see at 20 feet, uncorrected, what the normal person sees at 100 feet. Not only that, but both of my eyes are different. My left eye is weaker than my right eye. Maybe 20/150. Prescription glasses correct my vision, but it’s still not 20/20. For professional pilots, my vision isn’t what one would describe as “desired,” at least by the airlines and the U.S. Navy. When I was flying full time, more than half the airlines – American, Delta – wanted pilots with 20/20 vision uncorrected (no glasses). Some airlines like United would hire you if you ...

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