Vision Research Team
Our Research Focus
The Vision Research Team (VRT) conducts research on current and anticipated vision problems in aviation activities. Research includes: supporting the airman medical certification process, assessing the impact of corrective devices and techniques available on the market, evaluating the effects of aging and chronic disease as they relate to airman visual performance, and promoting suitable vision screening procedures by evaluating newly emergent techniques for the assessment of visual performance and their applicability to aviation. This team serves the agency as an advisory resource in areas relating to ophthalmic factors affecting aviation safety.
The VRT continually monitors the fields of optometry and ophthalmology to stay abreast of the latest advances in corrective devices and procedures. This includes reviewing current ophthalmological papers, reports and journals, as well as attending the vision science meetings. With knowledge of current developments, the VRT can advise FAA regulatory officials, Air Traffic Control (ATC) personnel, aviators, and Aviation Medical Examiners (AMEs) when questions concerning vision and the aviation environment arise. In some cases, new devices and procedures may improve visual acuity in a clinical setting, but can reduce visual performance when exposed to aviation environmental stressors. The VRT shares information with the aviation community through manuscripts published in the Federal Air Surgeon�s Medical Bulletin, Office of Aerospace Medicine Reports, aviation, scientific and professional journals, and educational brochures.
Often questions concerning aviation vision are asked that cannot be adequately addressed with the available knowledge base. When such an issue warrants immediate attention, the VRT can develop and conduct an appropriate research protocol. The VRT uses state-of-the-art ophthalmic equipment to examine the visual performance of selected groups of research subjects. An alternative approach that is sometimes used for more complex and resource intensive projects involves collaborative or contractual research with outside agencies or university-based facilities. In this way the VRT can answer difficult questions and make recommendations that may impact certification and regulatory decisions designed to reduce the risk of aviation accidents or incidents.
Periodically, the VRT updates demographic and vision-related statistics to better understand and anticipate the vision-related needs of aviators and air traffic control specialists. Many airmen use optometric devices or have had procedures performed to correct their vision and fly with medical restrictions or waivers. Epidemiological data is used to determine the incidence and prevalence of specific ophthalmic conditions or type of corrective devices and examine past and future trends in the civil airman population. This information can then be used as a guide for conducting clinical studies to examine the relative risk of aviation accidents or incidents for various subsets of the civil airman population.