Pilot Vision Regs Attacked At Inquest Overseas


How’s Your Near Vision?…

Families of seven passengers who died in a 2003 plane crash in New Zealand have attacked lax vision standards for commercial pilots during an inquest hearing in Christchurch. Under questioning by the family members’ lawyers, Dr. Dougal Watson, the principal medical officer for the Civil Aviation Authority, confirmed that the CAA allows pilots to self-prescribe corrective lenses for near-vision problems by buying off-the-shelf reading glasses from the local drugstore. The pilot of the accident airplane, Michael Bannerman, had been diagnosed with near-vision problems and, after picking up a pair of glasses, passed a flight test. Dr. Watson told the hearing the CAA tries to strike a balance between “total interference … and a reasonable medical stance.” The families said that not only was the regulation flawed, its implementation was also suspect. Bannerman “demonstrated he could meet the standards” on the test flight, which was done in daylight. The Piper Chieftain he was flying crashed 1.6 miles short of the runway at Christchurch during a night flight. Speculation about the glasses may be moot, however. They’ve never been found and investigators can’t say for sure he was even wearing them.