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Old 03-17-2009, 07:23 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default USAF Depth Preception Problem

I got accepted for a pilot slot in OTS for the USAF and I am in the process of getting my flight medical. I found out I have no depth perception and it is disqualifying for any pilot position in the USAF. I am seeing a specialist who believes she can help me improve my depth perception, but she does not know by how much.

I am a CFI with 400 hours and I have never had any problem controlling aircraft or judging distance. When I park aircraft, I have no problem judging wing tip separation. I also play sports that require hand eye coordination and I have only become aware of my lack of depth perception as a result of the Air Force physical.

My question is this, is there a way I can get around my failed depth perception tests with some sort of practical test or waiver? Currently, my eye tests are being reviewed for a wavier, but I do not feel I had a chance to state my case. The doctors keep telling me it is impossible to land a plane without depth perception despite the fact that I have been doing so for years without any problem. Any help would be much appreciated.
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Old 03-17-2009, 07:47 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Exactly what did they diagnose you with? "No depth perception" is pretty broad. When I was applying to the AF, and throughout my career, I always failed that DP test that uses the little circles in a row. I would always have to go see the eye doc and do some special tests to prove that I really did have depth perception, even if it's not perfect. Visual acuity is measured very precisely using the 20/xx scale. However, there is no gradation for measuring DP, only pass/fail tests.

Eventually, someone decided that I ought to be evaluated, and was diagnosed with a microexotropia with monofixation syndrome.

I was immediately grounded pending further review at Brooks. Under the AF regs, all depth perception waivers must be evaluated at Brooks in person. Only Brooks can issue waivers for DP deficiencies. After 2 days of testing, I was granted a waiver and given a pair of glasses to help correct the monofixation syndrome. They really can't fix the microexotropia.

But bear in mind that by this point I had 14 years of service, and had been an instructor in 3 different AF airframes. I'm sure that was taken into account in their decision to issue me a waiver, especially for something that was fixable with a simple pair of glasses. Admittedly, I never wore the glasses for takeoffs, landings, etc. The only time I needed them was during air refueling.

What tests did you fail? Presumably the "circles in a row." But did they then give you the polarized glasses and "grab the fly's wings" test? Or use the glasses with the pictures of animals and ask which was closer (actually a test for kids, but they use it for adults, too)? If they only did the circles, then you might be able to ask for further testing using alternate tests.

Good luck, PM me if you want.
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Old 03-17-2009, 07:56 AM   #3 (permalink)
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On the Circles its never either of the ends. Always either 2, 3, or 4.
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Old 03-17-2009, 08:07 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I failed the circle test so they had me do a “six part test” where they apparently do every test they can to see what is wrong with my eyes. I was able to see the wings on the fly and some of the animals stick out with the polarized glasses, but I was not able to see the shapes.

The problem I have is my right eye sees everything about 14 degrees lower than my dominant left eye. Because of the misalignment, by brain ignores the image from my right eye. My doctor gave me glasses with prism in the lenses to reduce the separation angle, but now I have to teach my brain to combine the images from both eyes together. If I consciously try to combine both images, I can pass a few tests. The problem is the eye examiner for the Air Force could see that I had to really try to combine the images myself, so she new that I was having trouble.
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Old 03-17-2009, 08:50 AM   #5 (permalink)
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There is a waiver for everything! Its all about who you know and who they know!
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Old 03-17-2009, 09:40 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Few things:
1. Yes there are waivers. Timing can be everything though on if they give them out. I went through UPT with a guy on a depth perception waiver.
2. I'm like the other poster, always failed the circle test, got sent to the optometrist and passed their test with no problem. Make sure they are sending you to an actual optometrist, not stopping with the circle test.
3. Make sure prescription is spot on. If mine was off slightly I would not pass, but once corrected, I had no problem.
4. Since you are not in yet, no one will be too proactive in helping you with a waiver. Be persistent. Don't take initial answers of "that's not possible" Ask for supervisors and regulation references. Be persistent to the point of being annoying (but professional).
5. Good luck.
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Old 03-17-2009, 01:24 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Box Office View Post
Few things:
1. Yes there are waivers. Timing can be everything though on if they give them out. I went through UPT with a guy on a depth perception waiver.
2. I'm like the other poster, always failed the circle test, got sent to the optometrist and passed their test with no problem. Make sure they are sending you to an actual optometrist, not stopping with the circle test.
3. Make sure prescription is spot on. If mine was off slightly I would not pass, but once corrected, I had no problem.
4. Since you are not in yet, no one will be too proactive in helping you with a waiver. Be persistent. Don't take initial answers of "that's not possible" Ask for supervisors and regulation references. Be persistent to the point of being annoying (but professional).
5. Good luck.
BO's post is spot on! When I went thru, I had an issue what wasn't waiverable. However, I strongly felt that I was being misdiagnosed. I kept saying no to the Flight Surgeon and asked for a second opinion. One day, I went to another Flight Surgeon and got his opinion. The next day, he sent me to Wilford Hall in SAT, TX and I saw a specialist. The specialist cleared me (remember, most of your Flight Surgeons are general practicioners or have one specialty). Had I not pressed for a 2nd opinion, I would have never became a pilot for the USAF.

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Old 03-17-2009, 02:05 PM   #8 (permalink)
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The problem is that I know for sure that I have a depth perception problem and cannot pass any of the tests. Want I want to know is if there is any way to get a wavier even though I cannot pass the tests regardless of who gives me the tests.
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Old 03-17-2009, 02:37 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kasserine06 View Post
The problem is that I know for sure that I have a depth perception problem and cannot pass any of the tests. Want I want to know is if there is any way to get a wavier even though I cannot pass the tests regardless of who gives me the tests.
I sympathize with your predictament but ask yourself this question also - if you truly do not have depth perception do you really want to possibly be joining on another aircraft in marginal weather at night using NVGs for example? Just who and what might you be putting at risk?

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Old 03-17-2009, 02:46 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kasserine06 View Post
The problem is that I know for sure that I have a depth perception problem and cannot pass any of the tests. Want I want to know is if there is any way to get a wavier even though I cannot pass the tests regardless of who gives me the tests.
If you truly have no depth perception, there is no waiver.
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