About 8 percent of men and 0.5 percent of women are affected by some kind of color vision deficiency. If you do have some kind of color vision deficiency, you can likely see color everywhere, but you’ve come to find that the colors you see are different from what others see. It’s possible you may fail the color plate test at the time of your FAA medical exam and the aviation medical examiner may place a limitation on your certificate that reads, “Not valid for night flying or color signal control.”
The good news is that the restriction can be removed. Here’s what’s involved. The first step is to take one of the FAA-approved alternative tests. One of the most popular, in which color-deficient pilots reportedly have the highest success rate, is the Dvorine 15-plate test. Contact an optometrist or ophthalmologist to see which tests they offer. If you pass the alternate test, take a letter confirming the results from the eye-care specialist to your AME at the time of your FAA exam. The AME can issue a new certificate without the color vision restriction.
If you cannot pass an alternate test, there is one more option—an operational color vision test (OCVT). Applicants for a first or second class medical certificate are required to take and pass both an OCVT and a color vision medical flight test. Applicants for a third class medical certificate need only take and pass the OCVT.
You can take the OCVT with an FAA aviation safety inspector through your local flight standards district office. The test has two components—the signal light test and demonstration of the ability to correctly read and identify colors on aeronautical charts. The test is given in daylight; a nighttime test may be given only after the daylight test has been completed. More information is available in FAA Order 8900.1, FSIMS, Volume 5, Chapter 8, Sections 5-1523.F, 5-1526.E.6, and 5-1527 F. Upon successful completion of both elements of the OCVT, the aviation safety inspector will issue a letter of evidence and a medical certificate with the limitation “3rd Class Letter of Evidence.”
If you fail the signal light test portion of the OCVT during daylight hours, you will be able to retake the test at night. If you pass the nighttime test, your medical restriction will read, “Not valid for flights requiring color signal control during daylight hours.”
If you cannot pass the OCVT during day or night hours, the restriction will read, “Not valid for night flying or by color signal control.” Additionally, if you fail the daytime signal light test, you will not be eligible for either first or second class medical certification, may not be issued a letter of evidence, and may not have the limitation modified or removed.
For more information, read AOPA’s subject report about color restriction removal. If you have questions, please contact AOPA by phone Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Standard Time at 800/USA-AOPA (872-2672) or by email to [email protected].