Confused about the JAA visual requirements? Need some soothing words to help you relax at nights? Perhaps these might help?
UK and Denmark were the first to implement the JAR Medical Requirements in July 1999. You will remember that an extended ophthalmological (eye!) examination was needed(5 yearly under age 40 and 2 yearly after age 40) and that your friendly AME used various strange devices to check that your eyes were still there and functioning reasonably well. You also had to visit an optician to have further tests done on your need for glasses and the pressure of the eyeballs.
In the JAA Medical Sub-Committee, there has been considerable debate about these extended tests. UK and several other countries have been arguing with safety and risk-based evidence to support their case that the Requirements are too onerous and should be relaxed. However, some other countries have been arguing that the visual standards should remain unchanged or be made even more rigorous. The reasons for their position are twofold. Firstly, there is a very strong body of ophthalmologists resisting any relaxation as they would lose income and status. Secondly, the regulators in those countries have no idea of risk assessment. The strongest reason in their eyes for doing things is that they have always been done that way-what has evidence or science got to do with it? Asking them the question "why?" brings on blank expressions.
A further interesting development is that the ICAO Standards and Recommendations that are enshrined, as you know, in Annex 1 to the Chicago Convention 1944 Chapter 6 have been re-visited thanks to a well-driven updating and amendment programme by the ICAO Chief Medical Adviser. The eyesight parts have just been amended, having been ratified by the Air Navigation Commission. These amendments were derived by a Working Group of international experts in the light of modern developments and the good safety record of those States with more relaxed standards.
The main point of these amendments is that the degree of refractive error (the power of lenses needed to correct the vision) is no longer to be taken into account, only the visual performance with spectacles or contact lenses. There are several other easements of a technical nature that are very sensible. The upshot of this ICAO action is that the JAA Medical Sub-Committee is obliged to take notice but has so far failed to act. The more recalcitrant countries will be persuaded around by good evidence eventually but this is not the way that the JAA tends to operate.
Meanwhile, the UK CAA has decided to delete the need for the extended eye examinations but recommends that opticians' visits every two years take place over the age of 50. This is a welcome move and, coupled with the US evidence of large numbers of pilots operating under these more relaxed rules, will eventually bring strong pressure to bear on the JAA medical system.
K. Edgington October 2001
October 2002 Update
At the June 2002 JAA Licensing Sub-Sectorial Team(Medical) meeting, the "extended eyes" assessment was, despite sensible and scientific argument by the UK members, re-introduced.
Full details are on the CAA web-site at http://www.caa.co.uk/srg/med/default.asp?page=534
The result is that all Class One certificate holders who are spectacle/contact lens wearers will have to have proof of an optician's examination every two years. Our regular bespectacled attendees will remember that our Practice had a specific form that we asked you to get completed at your opticians. This was discontinued a year or so ago.
The CAA have now introduced a similar form and we will give you a copy at the appropriate medical. You can, if you wish, print it off the CAA article on the link above. It is mentioned near the end of the item. This system is required to be running by December 2003. In due course there will be a box on the medical certificate to log when done and when next due.
Plus ca change!!!!
K. Edgington October 2002
Airport Medical Services Limited