Becoming a pilot is an exciting career path that allows you to fly planes and travel the world. However, there are certain medical requirements you must meet in order to qualify for a pilot’s license. One of these is having normal color vision, which is tested through a color blind test.
What is a color blind test?
A color blind test, also known as a color vision test, checks your ability to see and differentiate between colors. As a pilot, having normal color vision is crucial for:
- Reading cockpit instruments and displays
- Identifying colored lights and signals
- Spotting other aircraft
There are a few different kinds of color blind tests that may be used:
Ishihara color blindness test
The Ishihara test uses color plates with dots arranged in patterns of different colors and numbers. People with normal color vision can see the patterns and numbers, while color blind people cannot.
Farnsworth D15 test
This test involves arranging color caps in order from light to dark. It helps detect more subtle types of color blindness.
This test uses different colored lights that you mix together. It assesses your ability to match colors.
Titmus Vision Test
The Titmus test uses colored plates, lights, and other tests to check various aspects of color vision.
When do you need to take the color blind test?
You will need to take a color vision test at certain points in your pilot training and career:
- During your initial pilot medical examination
- When applying for your student pilot certificate
- When applying for your private pilot license
- When applying for your commercial pilot license
- During your First Class medical examination
- Periodic retesting throughout your career as required by the FAA
The color blind test is part of the overall medical examination required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Passing this test is mandatory in order to receive your pilot’s license.
How is the color blind test administered?
The test is usually given by an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) during your pilot medical examination. Here is what you can expect:
- The AME will use screening questions to ask about any issues you have with your color vision.
- They will then select one of the color vision tests described above. The Ishihara plates and/or Titmus test are common.
- You will be shown test plates, patterns, lights or objects and asked to identify, match or arrange colors.
- You will take the test under normal interior lighting conditions.
- No time limit – take as long as you need to identify the colors.
- The AME will compare your responses to the correct answers.
- If you fail the first test, you may be given a second different screening.
Based on your results, the AME will determine if your color vision meets the standards required by the FAA to fly.
What are the color vision requirements to pass?
The FAA has set standards for color vision that pilots must meet. To pass the color blind test, you must be able to correctly identify, match and discriminate between colors used in aviation. The standards are:
- Recognize and distinguish among colors used in air navigation.
- Pass the Ishihara test by reading at least 9 of the first 13 plates.
- Pass the Titmus Vision Test or similar color vision tests.
- If needed, be able to pass the Farnsworth D15 test.
- Demonstrate ability to readily distinguish red, green and white aviation lights.
Overall, your color vision must be normal and free from any deficiencies that could negatively affect your ability to operate an aircraft safely.
What happens if you fail the color blind test?
If you fail the color vision test during your pilot medical, unfortunately you do not meet the standards to receive your pilot’s license. There are a few next steps if this occurs:
- Retesting – In some cases, the AME may have you retake the test if they believe your results are unclear or borderline.
- Appeal – You can submit evidence and documentation to the FAA to appeal the denial within 60 days.
- Try for a Light Sport Pilot Certificate – This has less stringent medical requirements including color vision.
- Pursue non-pilot aviation career – Jobs like air traffic controller have slightly relaxed color vision standards.
Unfortunately if you are unable to pass the color vision test despite multiple attempts and appeals, becoming a commercial pilot is unlikely.
Tips for passing the pilot color blind test
Here are some useful tips to make sure you pass the color vision test:
- If you know or suspect you are color blind, see an eye doctor for assessment before your medical.
- There are apps and online tests you can use to practice for the real color vision test.
- Have your vision checked and update your prescription if needed.
- Build familiarity with distinguishing aviation colors and lights.
- Don’t rush – take your time identifying colors on the test.
- Ask the AME to calibrate the test if the colors look off.
- Relax and focus when taking the test – anxiety can hurt your performance.
With preparation and a focused effort, you can pass this test and continue pursuing your dream of becoming a pilot!
Passing the color blind test is a mandatory requirement in the medical process to earning your pilot license. Using color vision tests like the Ishihara or Titmus, the AME will assess if you meet the standards set by the FAA. While being color blind unfortunately disqualifies you from flying, you can pass the test with normal color vision, proper preparation, and a focused effort. Overall, by understanding what the color blind test entails, the requirements, and tips for success, you’ll be off to a flying start in your aviation career.
|Color Vision Test||What it Tests|
|Ishihara Test||Ability to see numbers/patterns of dots colored differently|
|Farnsworth D15||Ability to arrange color caps from light to dark|
|Anomaloscope||Ability to mix colors to match reference colors|
|Titmus Vision Test||Tests various aspects of color vision using plates, lights, etc.|
|When Color Vision Test is Required|
|Initial pilot medical exam|
|Applying for student pilot certificate|
|Applying for private pilot license|
|Applying for commercial pilot license|
|First class medical exam|
|Periodic retesting throughout career|
|Tips for Passing Color Blind Test|
|Get assessed by an eye doctor if color blind|
|Practice with online/app color vision tests|
|Get vision checked and update prescription|
|Build familiarity with aviation colors/lights|
|Don’t rush, take your time|
|Ask for monitor calibration if needed|
|Relax and focus during the real test|