Color Blind Testing Guide for Pilot Applicants

If you want to become a pilot, you need to pass a medical screening including color vision—usually by taking a simple color blindness test. Even if you already received your pilots license, you have to go to a medical check up every 12 month, again including a color vision deficiency test.

cockpit-pilotsWhat are your choices to accomplish the FAA test for color vision—specially if this could be a problem for you as you know you don’t have perfect color vision? This article will show you the different possibilities you have to master this specific test on color vision deficiency.

There are two ways you can go to accomplish it. The first choice is always to take a usual color blindness test with your Aviation Medical Examiner (AME). If you can’t pass this first round there is the possibility of retesting using some other color vision deficiency test which is accepted by the FAA. Or you can choose the second way which includes some special form of a very job specific color vision testing. But be prepared because this specific test can only be taken once and thereafter there is no other color vision test allowed anymore!

Let me explain this step by step in more detail.

First way: Accepted Color Blindness Tests

Any of the following listed tests can be taken to examine your color vision. If you fail one of them there is always the possibility to take another test of the list. I think this is a good rule as you can always have a bad day or be to nervous. So make sure that you pass in the second round. And it is important to know, that no other color blindness tests are allowed!

  • Pseudoisochromatic Plates Color Vision Tests: This tests are the most common ones and also known as Ishihara plates tests, because the first and very well known plates were made by Dr. Shinobu Ishihara. It is reported that the AOC and the Dvorine tests are the easiest to accomplish for people with color vision deficiency.
    • AOC (1965 edition)
    • AOC-HRR (second edition)
    • Dvorine pseudoisochromatic plates (second edition, 15 plates)
    • Ishihara pseudoisochromatic plates (concise 14-plate edition, 24-plate edition, 38-plate edition)
    • Richmond pseudoisochromatic plates (1983 edition)
    • Richmond-HRR (4th edition)
    • Tools which display plates: Titmus Vision Tester, Titmus II Vision Tester, Titmus 2 Vision Tester, Titmus i400, OPTEC 2000 Vision Tester, OPTEC 900 Vision Tester, Keystone Orthoscope, or Keystone Telebinocular
    • Electronically plates by LEDs: APT-5 Color Vision Tester
  • Farnsworth Lantern Test (FALANT): This is the only test allowed which is not based on isochromatic plates. The FALANT test consist of two little lights showing one of the colors red, green, or white which have to be named correctly. It is reported to be the easiest test to accomplish.

For detailed information about the allowed number of errors in each test check the decision considerations for AMEs at the official FAA website.

Many people ask if it is allowed using color correcting lenses or glasses while taking a color vision test. Unfortunately the rules say clearly, that you are not granted to do so.

Second Way: Specialized Operational Medical Tests

If you fail the above tests and still want to try to get your license, there is a last chance for you. But it is very important to know, that this second possibility of test can only be done once and after that you are not allowed to take any other test again. So this is really your last chance!

The specialized operational medical test consists of five different test steps. The first two parts are subsumed under the name Operational Color Perception Test (OCVT) and you have to accomplish them during day light. The last three steps are called Medical Flight Test (MFT) including also in-flight testing.

  1. Signal Light Test (SLT): Identify in a timely manner aviation red, green, and white.
  2. Aeronautical chart reading: Read and correctly interpret in a timely manner aeronautical charts, including print in various sizes, colors, and typefaces; conventional markings in several colors; and, terrain colors.
  3. Read and correctly interpret in a timely manner aviation instruments or displays.
  4. Recognize terrain and obstructions in a timely manner.
  5. Visually identify in a timely manner the location, color, and significance of aeronautical lights such as, but not limited to, lights of other aircraft in the vicinity, runway lighting systems, etc.

Make sure you are fit while taking this test, as it can be taken only once. But if you can master it you will receive a Letter of Evidence (LOE) which means, you will never have to take a color blindness test again during your pilots career.

If you fail the color vision testing during your medical exam you will have the restriction of not valid for night flying or by color signal control.

There is also an interesting study about Unreliable Secondary Color Vision Tests for Pilot Candidates and you can also find a lot more information on this topic at

8 responses on “Color Blind Testing Guide for Pilot Applicants

  1. FAA test

    What’s wrong with using color correcting glasses.If a guy could use a glass for driving a car.Why can’t he for a plane?

    It’s truely very disappointing.

  2. Brett Mather

    So I’ll start my story about 3 years ago when I began applying to become an Air Force Pilot through OTS. I was in my senior year at Virginia Tech working on my degree in Aerospace Engineering. After turning in my application to OTS I had to wait a while for the boards to make their decision, so I asked to have my flight physical done so that I would know if I was medically qualified before I even entered the Air Force. With the exception of distant visual acuity everything went well and I was given a waiver for my vision (20/200 uncorrected). I passed the PIP1 color vision test with 13/14 each eye. Unfortunately I ended up not being accepted to OTS and was quite disappointed.

    Searching for what’s next, I found the possibility of a 2-year AFROTC program I could do while working on my Masters degree. I looked at school and was accepted to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Aerospace Engineering Master’s program and the AFROTC program their. During my first year their I was selected for a Pilot slot before even going to field training.

    I went on to complete my work at Embry-Riddle and commission 3-MAY-09. I had to sit around all summer waiting to EAD but finally did on 3-SEP-09 and began to long drive to Laughlin AFB to wait for ASBC at the end of October, IFS, and someday UPT. I’ve been at Laughlin for just over a month now and received orders to go to Brooks AFB last Wednesday for MFS (Medical Flight Screening). At MFS they did a a few tests, but the only thing I was a bit worried about was my distant vision waiver. All of my tests went fine except for color vision. I scored 10/14 for the PIP1 for each eye failed a few other tests. They kept me for additional color vision tests and determined that I have hereditary red-green (deuteranomalous) green-weak, color deficiency. This is completely disqualifying for Pilot, Navigator, ABM (not sure about this one), Combat Control, Combat Rescue, Special Tactics Officer, OSI, Test Pilot School as an Engineer, and 99% of Astronaut positions.

    This has been quite devastating since all of those jobs I listed have been my dreams and backup plans in case my dreams didn’t work out. Having them all stripped away in one day has motivated me to fight this to the end. I’ve been researching quite a bit to come up with anything I can do. I don’t really know who to contact but I’m planning to start with my commander. I plan to tell my whole story and explain why I believe I am fit for at least one of those jobs.

    I’ve gone my entire life (24 years) without knowing I had any form of color deficiency and have accomplished a lot; I just don’t see how it can be so bad that I would be at a disadvantage now. I’ve read about potential advantages that red-green colorblind people have such as better night vision (which I found one paper going against this), being able to see “faster” (I haven’t found any scientific evidence), and most notably being able to see through and detect camouflaged objects more easily (still don’t have a solid source, just mentioned in other sources).

    From what I can tell the only way I might be able to get around this is to get my commander or someone above him to write an “exception to policy” that would basically say that they are willing to take a risk on me since I might be able to make up for a deficiency with other aptitudes. Other than that, political figures may be able to use their pull somewhat to get me around this (but I know none personally).

    If anyone has any information that may be useful to my cause please contact me at Otherwise I’ll be busy looking for other careers (which don’t require perfect color vision) that will be as exciting, dangerous, noble, and challenging (both mentally and physically) as that of an Air Force Pilot.

  3. Sumiran Khanal

    If someone doesnot have any problems in day aswell as night recognising the colours but has the problem in studying the number in ishihara chart than there should some others that can be followed.

  4. muhamad

    i need some guidance i’m colour blind i have my PPL licence but i want to proceed my CPL and what can i do about it i cant get my class 1 medical

  5. Pilot Programs

    This information is helpful for those candidates who want to become a pilot and also helpful to check color blindness. To become pilot we have to fulfill basic pilot medical requirements. There are various pilot training centers which provide all information about whole medical requirements and other pilot training programs which are helpful to become successful pilot.