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PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wednesday Wellness: Color Blindness

"Off the Record Q & A with a Local A.M.E."

DR. Larry


Dr. Larry, last I received a question about colorblindness. It appears everything in aviation is tied to color. Is it possible to fly if a person is colorblind? Is it possible for someone with normal site to become color blind later in life?


Color blindness can be an issue if one wishes to hold a first or second class medical, or does not wish to be limited by the inability to fly at night with a third class medical.

However, depending upon the “degree” or intensity of color blindness, one can obtain a medical waiver that says they are good to go if they pass certain criteria.

One of the tricks can be finding a color vision test they can pass with regularity (it can be different between examiners because we have a number of different options to use) if they are able to pass any of them. This is info about color vision restriction from
but it doesn’t say what is necessary if one fails the AME or eye doctor tests.

To see the FAA’s Decision Criteria for those how have failed their screening color vision tests and it does vary according to class of medical click HERE

To read the official and lengthy FAA standards paper which goes into all the reasons and requirements when one is color blind click HERE.

Finally, one little ditty that I only learned a couple of years ago:

People can become color blind over time.

I used to not think so but it’s true. I believe it’s more common for it to happen when someone is borderline, kind of like color carpets fading in sunlight over time. The take away message from this is, if one is borderline and struggles with passing the color vision test, perhaps it’s best to try to obtain a permanent waiver early on because they will otherwise be tested every exam for the rest of their lives, and to not pass it in older years could have significant impacts.

To your Good Health!

Dr Larry


  1. A permanent waiver early on, good to know!

  2. I had no idea a person could become color blind over time. Interesting!

  3. As with many conditions or potential conditions, the smart pilot (and his/her) AME thoroughly understands the rules and the work-arounds (waiver procedures) BEFORE the issue becomes a fly or no-fly zone. As Dr. Larry has mentioned several times, staying on top of this stuff is the PILOT'S responsibility. Great Post! -C.

  4. Linda, I didn't know this either. Fascinating. And yes, Heather, a waiver early is an excellent idea! Hopefully we'll never need one.

  5. Thanks C! Yes... it is the pilots responsibility. And it's nice to know that Dr. Larry is here to give us the inside scoop. Thanks for your comment!

  6. I've got his color vision waiver. Years ago when I was going for my CFI, I went to renew my medical. The doctor (a local guy with a bird - you may know him!) tested my vision and said I was colorblind. Yeah, I knew that, but he grounded me from night flying until I got tested.
    A letter to the FAA and maybe a month, and I got a letter back saying I can contact the local FSDO and set up a light gun test. Yeah, I did practice with the RNT tower to "study up" for the test.
    One night I meet the FAA guy down there and he called the tower for light signals. "Red, White and Green" I told him. All done! He handed me the waiver and I'm good for life now. I only went as high as a 2nd class medical, but only fly on a 3rd these days since I'm only doing instructing and nothing else.
    If I went for a 1st class, I'd have to take an FAA guy for a ride and prove that I can fly the VASI or something.
    Easy to do and not a big deal. :-)


  7. Wow, Tom... that's really interesting. So you did it. And proven those waivers can work. Good to know! Thanks for your comment! Happy New Year!

  8. If only we could have a waiver exam in Europe..... Pedro Ponte - founder of

  9. Lets stop talking about this and do something to make a difference.
    Arthur Pape won 3 court cases 23 years ago in Australia and that allows colour vision deficient pilots to even fly airliners at ATPL level. You probably have colour vision defective pilots flying a 747 into your country right now!

    Arthur has just launched a new campaign and invites pilots to join up and help.
    There is another court case about to happen.

    Colour Vision Defective Pilots Association.

    1. Thanks for the update. I'm wondering on the new generation airplanes if they could fly. Maybe aircraft specific. The Airbus has too many symbols that are the same...but the colors give them different meanings. I hope you win this battle!

  10. I got each and every solution for my color blindness from Web Health Network. They're the best in this field.


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