April 3, 2019

While only aviation medical examiners (AMEs) can conduct certain exams – such as a cardiovascular exam, with FAA Form 8500-7 – Report of Eye Evaluation – pilots can have their ophthalmologist or optometrist perform their eye exam.

“The FAA considers both qualified to complete the form, and no special referral is needed,” said Dr. Quay Snyder, MSPH, president/CEO of Aviation Medicine Advisory Service. “Use one covered by your insurance and convenient,” unless the applicant faces an unusual situation that calls for a specialist

“The evaluation by an eye doctor is much more complete than the FAA exam, and it can detect many diseases early, before more severe and permanent consequences develop,” added Snyder. “A test for intraocular pressure is one example of the form’s thoroughness; all items on the form should be done completely.”

If the tests reveal potential conditions, eye specialists should treat them as accepted protocols suggest.

“For pilots with intraocular hypertension or glaucoma, their eye specialist should complete FAA Form 8500-14, Ophthalmological Evaluation for Glaucoma, and perform the exam at least annually,” Snyder added. “The FAA routinely grants special issuance medical certificates for pilots with intraocular hypertension or glaucoma that is controlled and stable, but these require the completion of annual reports.”

Given the importance of a pilot’s vision, “pilots should always prioritize their personal health and, in particular, their vision, to make them a healthy, safe pilot with a long career,” said Snyder. “Most eye conditions can be cleared by the FAA after treatment is complete, so never forgo evaluations or treatment in an attempt to avoid declaring something on an FAA medical application.”