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Home > Medical Examination > Does color deficiency affect a pilot's career?
Does color deficiency affect a pilot's career?
Pilot Career - Medical Examination
Tuesday, 04 March 2008 03:32
Hi Captain Lim,

I have a slight color deficiency and I have gone to see a specialist. I have just taken a Farnsworth100 Hue Test yesterday and I am still waiting for the results.

The doctor told me that he would advise against pursuing a career as a pilot. He based it on the fact that an airline could hire someone without a deficiency, so why hire me? What I would like to know is, being color deficient, affect the job of a pilot? Has there been any accidents caused by a color-deficient pilot? Some pilots today are color deficient without even knowing that they are and still fly pretty well. Am I right?   -


Hi Kit, 

Before I answer your question, let me elaborate a little bit on what is color blindness.  Some aspiring pilots are unaware that they are colorblind until they undertake a medical examination, usually from a pilot recruitment procedure.  This news can be quite traumatic to one whose lifelong experience is to be a commercial pilot.

What then is color blindness?   Will this defect get worse?   Can this medical problem be cured?

Color blindness can either be inherited or acquired.   Color deficient people tend to confuse some colors or may totally miss others.  A colorblind person actually sees only black, white and shade of gray.   Man has a higher prevalence of color deficiencies (about 8 % or 11 million US males) whereas females have less color blindness problems (about 2 % or 1.4 million women).

Sometimes the use of certain medication has been associated with color confusion, notably the color blue and yellow.  Exposure to industrial toxins, especially to crop duster pilots, aging and high blood pressure are contributory causes to those acquired color deficiencies problems.

FAA medical check emphasized more on the red/green tests because of potential concern for those individuals misinterpreting the light signals on runways, taxi, VASI lights and aircraft position lights.

Sometime a borderline candidate might not pass a FAA test yet pass a proper administered test given under defined lightings conditions.   This standard differs from a military pilots and commercial pilots.

The Guidelines for Medical Examiners states "If an applicant meet the color vision standard ... but is otherwise qualified, the examiner may issue a medical certificate bearing the limitation ‘Not valid for night flying or by color signal control'.

Can color blindness be cured?   Well, if it is inherited, it may be treated, but if it is acquired, it may be, depending on changing of the medications or totally eliminating direct contact with the toxins. 

So, if you are color blind, you may not pass the medical test for the initial commercial pilot training. As you know, the medical examination for airline entry is quite stringent as compared to other profession and recognition of colors is very important when flying in the air or taxiing on the ground. 

I am not sure as to whether a color deficient pilot has caused any accidents yet. Anyway, he would have been screened out in the regular aircrew medical examinations before he could have caused any untoward accidents.


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As far as i know - A person who is suffering from color blindness can't be a commercial pilot.But the examiner may issue a medical certificate with the limitation "by color signal control".
FAA Test , 11 Oct, 2009
Why can't he? A person suffering from color blindness can't ever dream of flying an airplane? Gauraw Yadav
Gauraw , 16 Oct, 2009
Red/green is handleable
In my home area in New Zealand red/green color blindness affects more than 25% of the male population (It's a common issue among pacific islanders)

This causes issues at traffic lights.

The expedient solution has been to add a blue tint to green lights and (occasionally) an orange tint to red lights.

No idea how practical that'd be as an ITAR change.

On the other hand, colour blind airmen are extremely useful away from the pointy end of an aircraft because of their ability to easily pick out camouflaged positions...

Stoatwblr , 20 Oct, 2009

can singapore airlines allow colour blindness?
john , 22 Oct, 2009
not fair
I think this is not fair. I have red-green color deficiency.
I would like to point out to captain Lim that he seems to confuse color deficiency with color blindness. Color deficiency is hardly noticeable except in medical tests. The most common one (and the one I have) is red-green deficiency, which makes the subject confuse red and green in low lighting condition or when the colored area is small.
Those hardly hinder me in day to day life, they only become apparent when I am watching a small led light on an electronic device and i cant decide whether it's red or green. Otherwise, I usually can tell the difference when the light is not so small, and also uses cues from the context when i am not sure.
Nobody can tell how many accidents were caused by color deficiency, especially since color-deficient pilots are not allowed to fly commercially, but I think the number of accidents would be much lower then those caused by pilot stupidity, even if color deficient people were allowed to fly.
If in doubt, you can take the color test. I heard that there is a color test called the fanworth lantern that can be taken in Germany, and that is "easier" to pass then the ishihara plates, and also that the easiest test is the one given in USA (but you have to ask for it) in which they fire a colored light gun at you from a distance, and you have to tell what color it is.
rolf , 02 Jul, 2010
Corporate Slave for now
In the USA, You CAN BE AN AIRLINE PILOT if you're not majorly color blind. Every case varies, some (MOST, ABOUT 5-7% of the population) have a mild deficiency, some (LESS THAN 1%) more major. If you can "demonstrate the ability to perceive the colors necessary for the safe performance of airmen duties" then you are good to go. They give you a letter of evidence stating that you meet the requirement and don't need to take an office based color vision test anymore. First, try all of the office based color vision tests listed on: http://www.faa.gov/about/offic...tem52/amd/

Try an optometry college, or AME's in your area... Start making phone calls and asking what tests they have available, and ask for an eye consultation (NOT A MEDICAL CERT TEST YET). If you can't pass any of the OFFICE BASED tests, then you need to fail with an AME, get your medical cert with the "night flight restriction" then call the FAA to schedule to take the "operational color vision test" and "medical flight test" with an FAA examiner. ALl of the details are on that URL above. Don't let ANYONE tell you what you can or can't do, without going to the dragon yourself. (the FAA) Most people don't know squat about color vision, even doctors themselves, and especially the ignorant public... so you have to be persistent, and informed.
Jack , 22 Oct, 2011
Colour Deficiency
Hi captain I would like to know whether SIA accept pilots with Mild Red green Colour Deficient?
Fieqri , 17 Feb, 2012
move on guys
I aspire to be a pilot since i first saw a b747 in kai tak aiport. and I migrated to singapore, diagnosed with red/green deficiency when I was 16. Yes, devastating,but after I grew older, I come to realize that it's better for me to move on and excel in something else. This is because a pilot is responsible for hundreds of lives, a slight misjudgement of colours during a night takeoff or landing is catastrophic. to be a pilot, it's not only about your ambition, but it's also being responsible for the passengers, making sure you are in top form to perform the job, this includes having healthy eyes condition.

I moved on, decided to be a banker shortly after I completed my NS. Now, i am a banker, responsible for a large portfolio, and i am happy!

It's good to have an ambition, but when you know something that is entirely out of reach, adjust your expectations and you might end up with something even better
cy , 22 Apr, 2012
Colour Defective Pilots are Safe
In Australia, there are thousands of colour defective pilots who have been flying safely for over 25 years thanks to a landmark victory in our courts in the late 1980's which examined every conceivable use of colour in aviation. It was an emphatic and comprehensive victory. Many of these pilots in Australia are now international airline Captains.

Visit the Colour Vision Defective Pilots Association website for more information - www.cvdpa.com
John , 29 Apr, 2013
I validate Johns comments and also urge you to go to www.cvdpa.com

The tests are all based on NAMING a colour. I can identify PAPI's correctly but fail all the colour naming tests. What we have here in business parlance is the application of an outdated and therefore no longer valid business rule.
Marco , 06 Nov, 2013
Colour deficient pilots in Australia
I have a mild colour deficiency and I hold an unrestricted Class 1 medical and a Commercial Pilot Licence as I passed the FALANT test.

Pilots with more severe colour deficiency can fly in Australia all the way up to First Officer in domestic operations, but it looks like this will include Captains in the coming years.

The worldwide authority on this topic is Dr Arthur Pape, an Ophthalmologist and Pilot - please see www.cvdpa.com for more information.
The informed truth , 10 Jan, 2014
colour blind deficiency
Hi,captain I'm having a mild deficiency of red and green will I able to take cpl
sreerag , 11 Mar, 2015
I have an atpl with over 2000 hours logged, I am mild green/red cant see those ishihara plates at all.
broseph , 11 Jul, 2016
I have mild color deficiency but I always wanted to be a pilot . Do I still stand a chance of becoming a pilot or I don't
Conan , 23 Jun, 2017

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