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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation A-97-086
Details
Synopsis: About 1638 eastern daylight time, on 10/19/96, a McDonnell Douglas MD-88, N914dl, operated by Delta Airlines, Inc., as Flight 554, struck the approach light structure and the end of the runway deck during the approach to land on runway 13 at the LaGuardia airport, in Flushing, New York. Flight 554 was being operated under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 121, as a scheduled, domestic passenger flight from Atlanta, Georgia, to Flushing. The flight departed the Williams B. Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta Georgia, about 1441, with two flightcrew members, three flight attendants, and 58 passengers on board. Three passengers reported minor injuries; no injuries were reported by the remaining 60 occupants. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the lower fuselage, wings (including slats and flaps), main landing gear, and both engines. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed for the approach to runway 13; flight 554 was operating on an instrument flight rules flight plan.
Recommendation: TO THE FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION: Revise FAA Form 8500-8, "Application for Airman Medical Certificate," to elicit info regarding contact lens use by pilot/applicant.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Acceptable Action
Mode: Aviation
Location: FLUSHING, NY, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: NYC97MA005
Accident Reports: Descent Below Visual Glidepath and Collision with Terrain Delta Air Lines Flight 554 McDonnell Douglas MD-88, N914DL
Report #: AAR-97-03
Accident Date: 10/19/1996
Issue Date: 8/29/1997
Date Closed: 1/3/2000
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: FAA (Closed - Acceptable Action)
Keyword(s):

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: FAA
Date: 1/3/2000
Response: THE SAFETY BOARD HAS REVIEWED THE REVISED FORM AND DETERMINED THAT IT MEETS THE INTENT OF A-97-86. ACCORDINGLY, IT IS CLASSIFIED "CLOSED--ACCEPTABLE ACTION."

From: FAA
To: NTSB
Date: 8/26/1999
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 9/3/99 1:11:37 PM MC# 990986 THE FAA HAS REVISED FAA FORM 8500-8, APPLICATION FOR AIRMAN MEDICAL CERTIFICATE OR AIRMAN MEDICAL AND STUDENT PILOT CERTIFICATE, TO INCLUDE A QUESTION TO ELICIT INFORMATION REGARDING CONTACT LENS USE BY THE PILOT/APPLICANT. AN AFFIRMATIVE RESPONSE TO THIS QUESTION WILL PROMPT AN AVIATION MEDICAL EXAMINER TO QUESTION AN APPLICANT TO ENSURE THAT THE INDIVIDUAL IS NOT USING MONOVISION CONTACT LENSES WHILE FLYING. THESE FORMS BECOME EFFECTIVE 10/1/99. I HAVE ENCLOSED A COPY OF THE REVISED FORM FOR THE BOARD'S INFORMATION. I CONSIDER THE FAA'S ACTION TO BE COMPLETED, AND I PLAN NO FURTHER ACTION ON THIS RECOMMENDATION.

From: NTSB
To: FAA
Date: 3/1/1999
Response: THE BOARD BELIEVES THAT THE PROPOSED ADDITION TO THE FORM, COMBINED WITH THE CURRENT GUIDANCE TO AME'S TO CHECK FOR TYPES OF CONTACT LENSES USED BY APPLICANTS, MEETS THE INTENT OF A-97-86. THEREFORE, PENDING ISSUANCE OF THE NEW FORM, A-97-86 IS CLASSIFIED "OPEN--ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE."

From: FAA
To: NTSB
Date: 12/30/1998
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 02/19/1999 9:59:13 AM MC# 981542 THE FAA PLANS TO REVISE FAA FORM 8500-8, APPLICATION FOR AIRMAN MEDICAL CERTIFICATE OR AIRMAN MEDICAL AND STUDENT PILOT CERTIFICATE. THE FAA WILL INCLUDE A QUESTION ON THE REVISED FORM TO ELICIT INFORMATION REGARDING CONTACT LENS USE BY THE PILOT/APPLICANT. AN AFFIRMATIVE RESPONSE TO THIS QUESTION WILL PROMPT AN AVIATION MEDICAL EXAMINER (AME) TO QUESTION AN APPLICANT TO ENSURE THAT THE INDIVIDUAL IS NOT USING MONOVISION CONTACT LENSES WHILE FLYING. IT IS ANTICIPATED THAT THE REVISED FORM WILL BE COMPLETED IN SEPTEMBER 1999. IN THE MEANTIME, THE AME GUIDE INSTRUCTS AME'S IN TWO SEPARATE SECTIONS THAT THE USE OF CONTACT LENSES FOR MONOVISION IS NOT ACCEPTABLE. I WILL PROVIDE THE BOARD WITH A COPY OF THE REVISED FORM AS SOON AS IT IS PUBLISHED.

From: NTSB
To: FAA
Date: 8/17/1998
Response: In its letter, the FAA advised the Safety Board of the existing guidance regarding the use of contact lenses by pilots. However, the Safety Board believes that this guidance in inadequate. The aviation medical examiner (AME) for the Delta Airlines flight 554 pilot indicated that he was aware that it was aeromedically inappropriate for the pilot to wear monovision (MV) contact lenses and that he was not aware that the pilot was using them. The Guide for AME's requires AME's to test applicants with and without vision correction in place. The Safety Board is concerned that this requirement may lead AME's to request that applicants bring glasses, rather than contact lenses, to their examinations for convenience. Therefore, the AME may become aware of an applicant's use of any type of contact lenses only if the applicant volunteers such information or if the AME specifically requests it. The Safety Board is unaware of any current FAA guidance that requires or suggests either that the applicant indicate the use of contact lenses or that the AME question the applicant regarding contact lens use. The contact the aviators have with their AME is presumably the single most common source of medical information for pilots. The AME cannot reasonably be expected to question applicants with regard to every single aspect of their health. This is presumably the rationale behind including questions regarding relevant medical history on the front of FAA Form 8500-8. However, given the critical importance of vision to the safety of flight, the Safety Board believes that the use of contact lenses (considered separately from the need for vision correction in general) is significant information that must be provided to the AME. The Safety Board acknowledges that substantial administrative and resource requirements to amend FAA Form 8500-8. The Safety Board does not suggest that existing copies of the form be discarded. However, the Safety Board is aware that the FAA already intends to make changes to the form. A note on page 86 of the Guide for AME's under "Intermediate Vision" states, in part, the following: FAA Form 8500-8 will include the above block when the form (EE version) is revised. For now, use the blank block beside Item 51. Near Vision. Because at least one additional reason for revising the form exists, an opportunity would apparently be available for inclusion of the Safety Board's recommended change. The Safety Board is also aware that the FAA is committed to completely converting the certification system to a primarily electronic format (already in widespread use) in the next several years and believes that the change to the electronic version of the form can be made in conjunction with the changes to the paper form. Although the Safety Board appreciates the guidance material that the FAA has produced, and will supplement, on the subject of MV contact lenses, information about pilots' contact lens use is certainly relevant to an AME's assessment of pilot medical certification and should be included on Form 8500-8. Given the ongoing revision program for Form 8500-8 in both its paper and electronic formats, the Safety Board encourages the FAA to make the requested addition to the form. Further, the Board anticipates that it will not require a long period for the FAA to complete an evaluation and change the form. Pending further information from the FAA, Safety Recommendation A-97-86 is classified "Open--Acceptable Response."

From: FAA
To: NTSB
Date: 11/13/1997
Response: The FAA is concerned about pilots who use monovision contact lenses. Monovision is an optical technique in which a subject is fitted with one contact lens for distance correction and one contact lens for near correction. The use of a contact lens in one eye for distant visual acuity and a lens in the other eye for near visual acuity is not acceptable, because this procedure makes the pilot an effective alternator (a person who uses one eye at a time). Stereopsis is lost. Unfortunately, many pilots may be unaware of this position. In some cases, conventional spectacles or acceptable contact lenses are worn to scheduled medical examinations and then monovision contact lenses are used while flying. Aviation Medical Examiners (AME) should be aware of the FAA's position on this matter. The FAA's "Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners," page 84, explicitly states: "Contact lenses that correct near visual acuity only or that are bifocal are not considered acceptable for aviation duties. Similarly, the use of a contact lens in one eye for distant visual acuity and a lens in the other eye for near visual acuity is not acceptable." This position is reiterated on page 88 of the guide as follows: "The use of a contact lens in one eye for distant visual acuity and another in the other eye for near or intermediate visual acuity is not acceptable." FAA Form 8500-8, Items 50 and 51, require AME's to record a pilot applicant's distant and near vision with and without correction. As indicated on page 82 of the guide, if the applicant wears corrective lenses, the uncorrected acuity should be determined first, then the corrected acuity. AME's should be able to determine whether applicants need to use or are using correction to read a Snellen chart. To remind AME's of the importance of establishing a pilot applicant's use of contact lenses, page 83 of the guide states that failure to note and to require the removal of contact lenses is a common error that may occur in examining pilots for visual acuity. The FAA agrees with the Board that more guidance may be needed to make sure that AME's establish whether a pilot applicant is using or plans to use monovision contact lenses and that pilots are aware of the possible consequences with these types of lenses. The FAA has published an editorial in the summer issue of the Federal Air Surgeon's Medical Bulletin discussing its concern for pilots who use nonstandard corrective vision approaches. Also, at the Experimental Aircraft Association Fly-In last August in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, representatives from the American Optometry Association and the FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) staffed a booth entitled "Aviation Vision." Copies of the editorial, information warning of the hazards of monovision, and other available information on the subject of monovision were distributed during the fly-in. CAMI has updated its brochure entitled "Medical Facts on Pilots/Pilot Vision," and is developing revisions to the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) and the FAA Medical Handbook for Pilots to include warnings about monovision contact lenses. The brochure is in final review and will be distributed to AME's and their colleagues. This brochure will also be discussed and distributed in the guidance material at future AME seminars. The FAA anticipates updating the AIM and the FAA Medical Handbook within 6 months. The FAA will assess whether this further guidance is effective before making any amendments to FAA Form 8500-8. Amending FAA Form 8500-8 would require substantial resources and would entail finding available space on the front of the form. The FAA will determine how the form could be recrafted to accommodate this additional item and whether adding an item on contact lens usage would be the only amendment of the form required. Should there be additional reasons to revise the form, a question eliciting information on contact lens usage will be considered. I will keep the Board informed of the FAA's progress on these safety recommendations.