Sudden Surprise Trouble
Flying|January - February 2021
What the FAA taketh away, it giveth back.
DICK KARL

Written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the old nursery rhyme goes like this: “There was a little girl, / who had a little curl, / right in the middle of her forehead. / When she was good, / she was very good indeed, / and when she was bad she was horrid.” This sums up three days in September 2020 that rocked my world.

I was hit in the eye with a ball at age 18, lost vision for a week, then recovered to enjoy 20/20 vision. At age 63, I was diagnosed with increased intraocular pressure in my left eye. This is called “narrow angle,” or traumatic, glaucoma. I was prescribed eyedrops that controlled the pressure for the next 10 years.

When the eye drops failed to control pressure, I underwent a surgical procedure to vent the pressure via a drainage tube. This is called a Baerveldt shunt. As a result, I lost any meaningful vision in my left eye.

Last year, I sought a Statement of Demonstrated Ability, or SODA, after I passed a medical flight test. During the test, I had to demonstrate my ability to identify objects from the air, traffic in the air, read aeronautical charts while flying, and identify a field for a forced landing. I wrote about this last year, describing my MFT, which was conducted in a simulator with an FAA examiner. A simulator was used because I fly a Cessna Citation CJ1, and you can’t safely do these things for real in a jet. I thought I had a SODA forever. There are airline pilots flying with just one eye—so-called monocular pilots, I am told.

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