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Currently, I'm writing up a character bio for a game, where the character is a former naval aviator who becomes a JAG Corps lawyer who can be quite active during investigations and combat.

I've been googling for an hour and I've yet been able to find any articles on this, other than a number of health conditions barring applications to the service. Can anybody suggest something with a reference?

I had been thinking that he might have some kind of eye condition or even lost a finger or two in an accident, but I can't find any cases or regulations to back these ideas up.

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    $\begingroup$ related: Why are pilots deemed unfit to fly after emergency ejection? $\endgroup$ – Jamiec Jun 17 at 10:43
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe asking for navy medical requirements for flight crew would be more on-topic. If one of those is no longer fulfilled after an accident, that might justify revoking the pilot's certificate (or whatever the Navy calls it). $\endgroup$ – Bianfable Jun 17 at 10:55
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    $\begingroup$ A missile to the knee $\endgroup$ – Ingolifs Jun 17 at 21:12
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    $\begingroup$ P.S. You might want to look into copyright issues because this was the basis of a TV show in the 1990s. In case you don't remember... $\endgroup$ – Michael Hall Jun 18 at 1:33
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    $\begingroup$ It does sound a bit like JAG the TV show - "After an accident during a night landing on an aircraft carrier, in which his RIO (Radar Intercept Officer) dies, it is revealed Harm suffers from night blindness, he recovered on his grandmother's farm in Pennsylvania, before returning to naval service. After graduating from law school at Georgetown University Law Center and passing his bar exam, he transferred to the Judge Advocate General's Corps." $\endgroup$ – trognanders Jun 18 at 7:06
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Years ago I met a guy with an aerospace supplier I used to deal with in the US, who was a former instructor in the USN in the T-45 Goshawk. I asked him why he quit flying to do what he was doing, and he told me he was in an incident where his student rolled into a turn and pulled high G to avoid something, without any warning, while the instructor was looking down at something in the back seat. He wasn't able to raise his head in time and the G load tore ligaments in his neck. When he recovered, the Navy wouldn't let him return to flying status so he retired.

Here is a link to a related study on ResearchGate site.

I knew another guy with another supplier who was an ex F-14 driver in the late 70s and who retired after a crash where he ejected after an engine failure at a critical point during a carrier landing go-around, while the machine was rolling on its side. The airplane having banked quite steeply by the time the seat fired, the seat sent him on a kind of lateral arc like he'd been launched from a catapult, and he hit the water before his parachute had fully slowed him down, and broke his back, recovered (more or less) and retired.

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    $\begingroup$ Plenty of guys suffered injuries in an ejection that put them at a point where "the next ejection might kill you" but after rehab, they are 100% as far as you could tell - active & fit. Some continue to fly in non-ejection-seat aircraft (E-2, C-2, T-44, C-40, etc) but going JAG instead sounds plausible. $\endgroup$ – Ralph J Jun 17 at 14:51
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    $\begingroup$ @ReverendSpeed I took the liberty of adding a link to a related study to this answer, as I'd rather not make another one similar to this one. Check it out. $\endgroup$ – Jpe61 Jun 17 at 18:01
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    $\begingroup$ That incident sounds very familiar; what year was it? $\endgroup$ – KorvinStarmast Jun 17 at 21:25
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    $\begingroup$ The guy I met told me he tried to transfer to the Air Force from the Navy but they wouldn't take him for flying duty either. The story was told to me about 15 years ago and I believe happened in the mid 90s. $\endgroup$ – John K Jun 18 at 0:29
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Glaucoma would do it -- reduces peripheral vision almost immediately (that's often the cause for diagnosis, unless someone is having medical eye exams on the regular like a diabetic would), leads to blindness over time -- but until then, has little effect on central vision (such as you'd use to examine details, shoot, etc.). There are treatments (one of which is marijuana, which would be a big no-no for a pilot, but might be okay for a desk job with a prescription), but there's no cure.

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    $\begingroup$ Looking it up, there's pretty strict limits on how bad a pilot's vision is allowed to be, though it seems like the requirement of 20/20 vision was relaxed in the 90s. Anything that caused vision to degrade past the level required would be sufficient to get a pilot grounded while still live a normal life. $\endgroup$ – nick012000 Jun 17 at 19:41
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    $\begingroup$ @nick012000, 20/20 has always been a pretty hard requirement, what varies is whether or not it can be corrected to 20/20. Generally they want to take in pilots that have 20/20 (or better) uncorrected, but if they are short you may get a waiver. Once they have invested a million $ into your training it would be foolish to boot you out just because you need glasses. But again, it needs to be correctable to an acceptable level. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hall Jun 18 at 1:31
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A bit more exotic incident would be the one that happened to Finnish Air Force test pilots about ten years ago:

During a test flight of a "frankenplane" put together of two carcasses of F/A-18's (FAF HN-413 damaged in a previous midair collision and a Canadian front section) to make a functioning F/A-18D (HN-468), a horizontal tail servocylinder valve malfunctioned while recovering from an intentional tailslide. This led to an uncontrolled dive, during which the speed of the aircraft quickly accelerated. At a speed of about 470 kts the pilots ejected, and the plane shortly impacted ground, completely pulverizing it.

Because of the high speed both pilots were seriously injured, and to my knowledge, at least one was not able to resume flying duty.

Oddly enough, the frankenplane experiment in itself was successfull, as it was later determined the valve failure was an isolated incident, not related to the repairs made to the plane.

Finnish broadcasting agency YLE reported the incident in many news articles, here is one of them. Unfortunately it is in Finnish, but Google Translate seems to do a decent job on it.

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Anything health related could be a reason. Pilots go to for checkups at the doctor at regular intervals.

Even the suspicion of a minor heart problem could be one reason. This includes ECG and other tests, the kind of small murmurs we all have has limits as they might be due to leaking valves. Training hard while having lower chest infection (severe cold) could lead to heart damage.

Gallstones or Kidney stones will stop a fighter pilot from flying. Either can be caused by reasons outside the individuals control (ie, certain diets will increase the risk, but if you stay away from those the stones can occur anyway).

Other reasons:

The type of plane you are flying might be phased out, and you are not among the pilots trained for the new type. Perhaps given the offer of "going down" to less interesting plane types and simply staying out.

Pilots go through recurring training and tests. If you are "not up to the high standards", you will not be allowed to continue flying fighter planes.

You get married and want to be close to your family -- fighter pilots move around a lot between different assignments.

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    $\begingroup$ Definite +1 on cardiac issues -- IRL I see a fair number of pilots undergoing cardiac MRI to comprehensively rule out nasty cardiac pathologies. One of the standard tests performed is a 'stress perfusion test' -- we inject a drug to make the heart beat faster and quantitatively see if the blood flow can "keep up" [a good sign] or if any ischaemia due to pathology (e.g. atherosclerosis) is limiting [a bad sign]. Most people sweat, get visibly stressed, etc as their heart rate shoots to ~160, which is clinically useful information. Airline pilots are oft-maligned as they just sit there calmly... $\endgroup$ – Landak Jun 18 at 9:07
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    $\begingroup$ A friendly game of flag football ended a flying career - landed on head, compressed two discs, couldn’t wear a flight helmet longer than 30 minutes… $\endgroup$ – AFK Jun 19 at 0:10
  • $\begingroup$ Gallstones would prolly make the most surprising character bio item. $\endgroup$ – Jpe61 Jun 20 at 8:08
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Are you aware of the TV Series that ran from 1995-2005 called "JAG," which is almost exactly the same as your premise? It was explained in the show opening that:

Following in his father's footsteps as a Naval aviator, Lieutenant Commander Harmon Rabb Jr. suffered a crash while landing his Tomcat on a storm-tossed carrier at sea. Diagnosed with night blindness, Harm transferred to the Navy's Judge Advocate General Corps, which investigates, defends and prosecutes the law of the sea. There, with fellow JAG lawyer Major Sarah MacKenzie, he now fights in and out of the courtroom with the same daring and tenacity that made him a top gun in the air.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JAG_(TV_series)

By the way, I think it was in season 3 that he had laser surgery that cured his night blindness, and he got to fly Tomcats again. He deployed to Kosovo and won a DFC, but that only lasted a few episodes. He went back to JAG after that, but he kept his flight status current.

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  • $\begingroup$ While this is a very valid point, A) it is NOT an answer, and B) it was mentioned in the comments on the OP 10 hours ago $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Jun 18 at 17:57
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    $\begingroup$ "Night blindness" mentioned here actually does answer the original question. $\endgroup$ – Ralph J Jun 18 at 18:48
  • $\begingroup$ @FreeMan A) I think it does answer the question. B) Answers in comments are not allowed, so posting this as an answer with a source (even if it's only Wikipedia) is the correct way. $\endgroup$ – Bianfable Jun 18 at 19:59
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    $\begingroup$ I bet night blindness would have been caught in the initial testing before the multi million dollar flight training... $\endgroup$ – Jpe61 Jun 20 at 8:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Jpe61 the pilot may have developed night blindness due to dietary deficiencies ... you are sure you can see at night, you are convinced you can see at night but it requires only a bit more attention because of "getting old" ... until the time you do not see at night. $\endgroup$ – EarlGrey Jun 28 at 13:56
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It may be the usual cover-up of major neglicence, such as in the ominous "accident" of Cermis, when the crew of an EA-6B flew too low, cut the cables of a cable car and brought the lives of 20 people to an abrupt halt.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1998_Cavalese_cable_car_crash

If your fictious pilot would have not had any recorder on-board, he would be actively on-duty. I think they could easily fake-up a medical report claiming he had a sudden epileptic seizure that brought him too low. The lingering epilepsy is the kind of "injury" that would remove a pilot from active line, but that can be retained in the army with a desk job.

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    $\begingroup$ That pilot got cleared of the manslaughter&co accusations, he clearly did not do anything wrong. Unfortunately for him, that same pilot got dismissed for obstruction of justice: he had an onboard video recorder and he deleted the cassette, so that is the farcical reason for which he was dismissed. Life is really unfair sometimes ... $\endgroup$ – EarlGrey Jun 18 at 15:13
  • $\begingroup$ I guess it was farcical and unfair if you believe that military officers shouldn't be dismissed for "conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman". $\endgroup$ – David Aldridge Jun 20 at 13:55
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidAldridge I am ironic (and sad). One cannot be a gentleman and reckless. $\endgroup$ – EarlGrey Jun 21 at 8:03
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Naval aviator Alan Shepard was grounded for at least 6 years due to Ménière's disease.

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Generally, once a person is qualified as a military pilot the service will work pretty hard to bring him back to flying duty after an injury, as it's a rather large investment at that point, except that the "needs of the service" vary over time mostly based on the manning and budget set by Congress. Your character could move to the JAG Corps for as simple a reason as already having a law degree (maybe decided to join the Navy after some life changing event made him long to serve), getting accepted to both fly and lawyer (I knew doctors who did both duties), and choosing to do the legal thing full time when manning allotment got politically reduced.

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