Intermediate Vision : What to Expect at the Flight Physical

Item 51.b: FAA Policies on the Airman Medical Exam

Apr 2014

Abbreviated Briefing:

Intermediate Vision is measured at 32 inches

Class 1 and 2

  • If age 50 or older, Intermediate visual acuity must be at least 20/40 at 32 inches

Class 3

  • Intermediate vision is not measured for Class 3


Guidance is compiled and interpreted by professional pilots and physicians at from the 2014 AME Guide pages 167-169, FAA and FDA web data ( &, instructions specified in the Aeronautical Information Manual, Federal Air Surgeon Bulletins from 1999-2015, and 14 CFR Part 61 and Part 67 (the FARs).

I. Code of Federal Regulations (Legal Source)

  • First- and Second-Classes: 14 CFR 67.103(b) and 67.203(b)

    Distant Vision is measured at 20 feet for all ages, but for older pilots, close up vision test components are required at both 16 inches (near) and 32 inches (intermediate) positions in each eye separately. Near Vision and Intermediate vision are discussed together in the Legal Code. Visual acuity must be 20/40 or better at 16 inches in each eye separately (the 16 inch is the Near Vision part). AME measurements are taken with or without corrective lenses at the specified distances. If age 50 or older, near and intermediate vision must remain 20/40 or better, Snellen equivalent. Therefore, for older Commercial and ATP pilots, the visual acuity is measured at 3 distances: distant (20ft), intermediate (32 inches) and near (16 inches). These are recorded with or without corrective lenses. If lenses are required the medical certificate will specify this as a limitation.
  • Third-Class: 14 CFR 67.303(b)

    Intermediate Vision is N/A See 51.a. Near Vision and 50. Distant Vision pages for 3rd class visual acuity requirements.

II. Equipment and Examination Techniques

Equipment Used by the AME:

  1. FAA Form 8500-1, Near Vision Acuity Test Chart, dated April 1993.
  2. For testing near at 16 inches and intermediate at 32 inches, acceptable substitutes: any commercially available visual acuities and heterophoria testing devices. For testing of intermediate vision, some equipment may require additional apparatus. There are specific approved substitute testers for color vision, which may not include some commercially available vision testing machines. For an approved list, see Item, 52. Color Vision.

Examination Techniques Used by AME:

  1. Near visual acuity and intermediate visual acuity, if the latter is required, are determined for each eye separately and for both eyes together. Test values are recorded both with and without corrective glasses/lenses when either are worn or required to meet the standards. If the applicant is unable to meet the intermediate acuity standard unaided, then he/she is tested using each of the corrective lenses or glasses otherwise needed by that person to meet distant and/or near visual acuity standards. If the aided acuity meets the standard using any of the lenses or glasses, the findings are recorded, and the certificate appropriately limited. If an applicant has no lenses that bring intermediate and/or near visual acuity to the required standards, or better, in each eye, no certificate may be issued, and the applicant is referred to an eye specialist for appropriate visual evaluation and correction.
  2. FAA Form 8500-1, Near Vision Acuity Test Chart, dated April 1993, should be used as follows:
    1. The examination is conducted in a well-lighted room with the source of light behind the applicant.
    2. The applicant holds the chart 16 inches (near) and 32 inches (intermediate) from the eyes in a position that will provide uniform illumination. To ensure that the chart is held at exactly 16 inches or 32 inches from the eyes, a string of that length may be attached to the chart.
    3. Each eye is tested separately, with the other eye covered. Both eyes are then tested together.
    4. The smallest type correctly read with each eye separately and both eyes together is recorded in linear value. In performing the test using FAA Form 8500-1, the level of visual acuity will be recorded as the line of smallest type the applicant reads accurately. The applicant should be allowed no more than two misread letters on any line.
    5. Common errors:
      1. Inadequate illumination of the test chart.
      2. Failure to hold the chart the specified distance from the eye.
      3. Failure to ensure that the untested eye is covered.
      4. Failure to determine uncorrected and corrected acuity when the applicant wears glasses.
    6. Practical Test. At the bottom of FAA Form 8500-1 is a section for Aeronautical Chart Reading. Letter types and charts are reproduced from aeronautical charts in their actual size. This may be used when a borderline condition exists at the certifiable limits of an applicant's vision. If successfully completed, a favorable certification action may be taken.
  3. Acceptable substitute equipment may be used. Directions furnished by the manufacturer or distributor should be followed when using the acceptable substitute devices for the above testing.

III. Aerospace Medical Disposition

When correcting glasses are required to meet the near and intermediate vision standards, an appropriate limitation will be placed on the medical certificate. Contact lenses that correct only for near or intermediate visual acuity are not considered acceptable for aviation duties.

If the applicant meets the uncorrected near or intermediate vision standard of 20/40, but already uses spectacles that correct the vision better than 20/40, it is recommended that the Examiner enter the limitation for near or intermediate vision corrective glasses on the certificate.

For all classes, the appropriate wording for the near vision limitation is:


Possession only is required, because it may be hazardous to have distant vision obscured by the continuous wearing of reading glasses.

For first- and second-class, the appropriate wording for combined near and intermediate vision limitation is:


For multiple defective distant, near, and intermediate visual acuity when unifocal glasses or contact lenses are used and correct all, the appropriate limitation is:


For multiple vision defects involving distance and/or near and/or intermediate visual acuity when more than one set of lenses is required to correct for all vision defects, the appropriate limitation is:


Related Pages:

This page discussed the Intermediate Vision portion of the Eyes & Vision section of the Fight Physical Examination required of pilots.

Reminder: use to familiarize yourself with aviation medical regulations and guidelines, but always discuss your specific situation with one or more AMEs before dedicating resources toward expensive clinical workups. Find an AME now