Off the Record Q & A with a Local A.M.E. about Color Blindness

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.

Read more: Off the Record Q & A with a Local A.M.E. about Color Blindness

Aviation Medicine Color deficient?

Aviation Medicine Color deficient?

Aviation medical specialists are trying to define the role of color vision in safe flight operations.

BY LINDA WERFELMAN | flight safety foundation | AeroSafetyWorld | December 2008

As technological advances infuse flight decks with increasingly colorful displays, disagreements persist among pilots, aeromed- ical specialists and regulators
on a basic underlying question: What level of color vision is re- quired for safe flight operations?

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) says that the increasing reliance on color- coded information in flight displays “means that adequate color perception continues to be impor- tant for flight crew and air traffic controllers.”1

ICAO also says that, unfortunately, “there is very little information which shows the real, practical implications of color vision deficien- cies on aviation safety.”

Dr. Anthony Evans, chief of ICAO’s Aviation Medicine Section, said, “Many individuals seem to function very well with a degree of deficiency, and flying instructors are often ready to attest to the visual ability of some color deficient individuals. On the other hand, some — actually very few — safety tasks rely on good color vision for their safe execution.”

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Avmedia: Aviation Colour Perception Standard: A Time to Re-Asses

Arthur M. Pape, (MBBS).

(This article was published in September 1997 in „Avmedia“, the journal of the Aviation Medicine Society of Australia and New Zealand)

(This paper has been submitted to the Office of Aviation Medicine in response to the call from Dr. Jeff Brock, the Director, for submissions on the Aviation Colour Perception Standard)




(1) Introduction

(5) The Colour Vision Defective

(2) Colour Coding

(6) Conclusions

(3) The Pilot

(7) Submissions

(4) Defective Colour Vision



With the publication in the April issue of AVMEDIA of the article by Dr. Barry Clark on the subject of the aviation colour perception standard (ACPS), it is indeed an appropriate time to address this matter from an opposite perspective. My interest in colour vision is a personal as well as a professional one, being a colour-defective (deuteranopic) medical practitioner, and the holder of an Australian CPL and Command (multi-engine) Instrument Rating. I had the honour in the late eighties of leading the appeals against the standard in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in two landmark cases that forced a major de-restricting of colour-defective pilots in their civil aviation pursuits in Australia. 

The cases referred to are the following:


Read more: Avmedia: Aviation Colour Perception Standard: A Time to Re-Asses

AOPA Australia: The Aviation Colour Perception Standard

Produced by Arthur Pape and proudly sponsored by: AOPA Australia,

whose mission it is to promote the „Freedom to Fly Responsibly” – Philosophy of Aviation Regulation.  




(1) Dedication and Aim

(9) „Scientific” Evidence
or „Slight of Hand”

(2) About the Author

(10) What Pilots Do and How They Do It.

(3) A Brief History of the Standard

(11) Colour Usage in Aviation

(4) The Fundamentals

(12) Pilot Assessment and Licensing

(5) The „Protectors” of the Standard

(13) The Administrative Appeals Tribunal

(6) Defective Colour Vision: What is it?

(14) Summary

(7) What Can’t Colour Defectives Do?

(15) E-mail to Arthur Pape

(8) What Can Colour Defectives Do



CAUTION!! This page is colour coded. Only those with normal or „defective safe“ colour vision may use it.

In fact, the rationale of the use of colour in this web page is about as sophisticated as the use of colour in the aviation environment, and just as unsystematic. However, all will agree that the use of colour makes the page more pleasing to the eye, a benefit that applies to all grades of defective colour vision as well as to the colour normal reader.

Dedication and Aim

This page is dedicated to the millions of youngsters the world over whose ambitions to become pilots and enjoy the immense delights of aviation are thwarted by the colour perception standard.

We hope to instil hope for those frustrated by this „standard“ which is based on unscientific nonsense and promoted by a small but vocal band of blinkered vision „specialists“. These people understand little about either aviation or the miracle of perception.

Nowhere has the debate been more intense than in Australia, where for twenty years the author has fought against the standard. In the late ‘eighties, the battle culminated in two landmark appeals to The Administrative Appeals Tribunal which resulted in the removal of restrictions on night flying for all Australian pilots with colour vision defects. The tribunal found after exhaustive examination of all the issues that colour vision defects do not constitute a risk to the safety of air navigation.

This web site will expose in detail why the Aviation Colour Perception Standard is simply wrong and unnecessary. It is intended to educate both those with normal colour vision and those with defective colour vision. It is hoped too that those charged with the responsibility for aero-medical standards will take the time to consider the arguments promoted here. There is no place in the regulating of the safety standards of aviation (or for that matter in any sphere of human activity) for anything based on bad science or ignorance.

About the Author

My name is Arthur Pape. I am a Dutch-born Australian and graduated in Medicine in Melbourne, Australia in 1969. My flying career began in 1977, and I have gained the Australian Commercial Pilot Licence with Command Instrument Rating for Multi-engine aircraft. At time of writing I have approximately 1500 hours total aeronautical experience. I am a Designated Aviation Medical Examiner for the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority, and the Vice-President of AOPA Australia. My hometown is Geelong, Victoria, Australia where I have my own general practice. My aircraft is a much-loved 1976 Seneca II. I believe it is probably the record holder for nose gear failures: four in six years, but that is another story altogether.

I have defective colour vision.

Read more: AOPA Australia: The Aviation Colour Perception Standard