Color Deficient vs. Colorblind

If someone has trouble reading the bottom line of a vision chart at the eye doctor, are they considered blind? Of course not! Color deficient (sometimes called colorblind, though that's not really true) individuals can see a spectrum of colors but are missing specific rods and cones in the eyes to see color to its fullest extent. Color deficient individuals can still see color - they just interpret it differently.

Color deficiency is common. 8% of men and 0.5% of women are affected. Men are most likely to be affected because genes for color deficiency are on the X chromosome. 

Color Vision For Pilots: What do the FARs say?

14 CFR 67.303 (c) specifically talks about the requirements for pilot color vision. For any class of medical, you must have the "ability to perceive those colors necessary for the safe performance of airman duties."

The necessary colors are generally accepted to be red, green, and white. But beyond those three, you must also be able to interpret the various colors on a sectional chart, colors on the ground, in the air, and in your specific aircraft.

What happens if I fail my AME's color vision test?

If you fail the color vision portion of your aviation medical, but are otherwise medically fit to fly, your AME will issue your medical with the limitation "Not valid for night flying or by color signal control". You can still fly, but you are limited to day time only. Your AME should go over all of your options for having that restriction removed - but not all do. That is why this website exists.

How can I get the restriction removed?

It's easy! The process to remove the restriction involves simply passing an alternate FAA approved color vision test. 

All currently approved tests are listed on the "FAA Approved Tests" page. If you find an AME who offers a different test (or one you want to try on a consultation basis--more on this later), you CAN re-test with the new AME, but you are required to wait between 60-90 days AFTER your restricted medical was issued. 

If you want to have the restriction removed sooner than 60-90 days, you will need to find an eye doctor (Optometrist or Ophthalmologist) who has one of the approved color tests in their office, and have them complete box 16 of FAA Form 8500-7, recording the name of the approved test given and number of errors.

What if I can't pass any color vision test?

It is possible that certain color deficient individuals may struggle to pass any of the FAA approved color vision tests. In this event, you have two options:

1) Continue flying during the daytime only (generally, sunrise to sunset) for the entirety of your flying career. You can still earn a Private Pilot certificate because that certificate does not require solo time at night. You will still receive the required night flying experience with your instructor.

2) Take the Operational Color Vision Test (OCVT) with the FAA. You must request this test from the FAA directly, either via the medical office in Oklahoma City, or your regional flight surgeon. You must already have the night flying limitation on your medical for them to approve the test. Approval time for the test varies, but it will likely be a few weeks from your initial request. Once you are approved, you contact your local Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) to schedule the test. It should be noted that this is a one-time test. If you fail the OCVT during the day (only the signal light test portion), you may retake it again at night. If you fail at night, the limitation stays on your medical for life. 

For a complete description of the test itself, see the OCVT tab under "FAA Approved Tests".