Imagine you’ve lost the vision out of your dominant eye and you had to perform the same job you’re doing now.
Now imagine that job is flying a C-130H Hercules for the 180th Airlift Squadron at Rosecrans Memorial Airport.
Do you think you’d have the slightest chance at flying again without both of your eyes?
“It’s certainly unique, certainly rare,” Master Sgt. Michael Crane, Public Affairs Superintendent for the 139th Airlift Wing, said. “I think it’s a great example of the Air Force, looking at the airmen, and being able to take care of them.”
Despite the odds, Major Ed Fattmann, call sign, “Fatty,” flew a C-130 as an Air Force pilot after a seven-year military hiatus.
The incident that robbed him of his dominant eye happened on the Fourth of July in 2012. A misfired firework hit his right eye.
The military has strict rules about a pilot’s eyes, so the notion that officials would allow one with one functioning eye to fly is a long shot itself. However, Fattmann didn’t spend that time holding his breath.
He underwent 32 procedures on his vision. The reason being; similar to his brother, father or even his grandfather — Fattmann is a pilot, and that was his singular dream as a child.
“I love to fly, that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do,” Fattmann said.
One of the procedures included a special gift from his father.
“My dad donated his stem cells around his eye,” Fattmann said. “So at one point, I actually had 20/40 vision again.”
The recurring issue with every attempt to correct his vision was his eyelid. It created the problem, which caused the cornea to fail, and subsequently the vision in his right eye.
Despite the limitation, Fattmann has been flying some military craft as a civilian beginning two years ago, because the vision requirements aren’t as stringent. Those experiences were the reason he was able to return to fly again for the squadron.
The crew that accompanied him over the skies of St. Joseph on Wednesday afternoon weren’t a bunch of slouches either. They were the same soldiers who went to Afghanistan with him back in 2010.
“When you deploy you build a relationship that’s close, and you can’t ever replace that,” Fattmann said.