Air Force Allows Pilots With Lasik to Fly

For the first time, the US Air Force is allowing aspiring pilots and aircrew members to fly even if they have had LASIK eye surgery. Since 2001, the Air Force has permitted applicants to try for spots as pilots or aircrew members if they have had a corrective eye surgery, known as PRK (photo refractive keratectomy). The Air Force had said it needed more time to evaluate LASIK, a newer procedure.

Like PRK, LASIK is done with a laser to change the shape of the cornea, the clear covering over the eye. However, in a LASIK procedure, surgeons also use a blade to cut a flap in the cornea, unlike a PRK procedure. Air Force surgeons said they were concerned with how this LASIK flap would hold up with pilots and crewmembers in high-altitude, low-oxygen environments, especially in an emergency evacuation.

Studies now show that there is little or no effect on LASIK treated eyes when put through the windblast of an aircraft ejection or when exposed to high altitude. With the prolonged and protracted war in Iraq and expansion of military size and service, widening the qualifications for flying comes at a good time.


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