Have you been dreaming about becoming a pilot since you were a young age, but you’ve recently discovered that you’re colorblind? You may be concerned that your hopes of taking to the sky have been dashed.
But you don’t need to worry. You can be colorblind and still become a commercial pilot. However, there will be some limitations on what you can do, as your medical certificate will state that you’re unable to fly at night or by color signal controls.
There are three different types of medical certificates that can be awarded to a pilot, and the medical certificate you’re given will depend on the severity of your color-blindness.
Color Vision Requirements for Pilots
According to the FAR (Federal Aviation Regulations) Part 67 “The ability to perceive those colors necessary for safe performance of airman duties” is a necessary requirement in order to obtain a first-class, second-class, or third-class medical certificate.
This is a good thing if you’re colorblind and have dreams of becoming a pilot. Let’s take a look at each class of medical certificate a pilot can be awarded, with a focus on which you’re likely to achieve if you’re colorblind.
Third-Class Medical Certificate
If you fail the pseudoisochromatic color plate test during your medical examination, you’ll be awarded a third-class medical certificate. Private Pilot Licenses fall into this category. Your medical certificate will also state the following:
“Not valid for night flying or by color signal controls”.
However, you can take an alternative FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) approved test to try and get these restrictions lifted. You can find a list of these alternative tests at the bottom of this article.
If you pass, the restrictions on your medical certificate will be lifted and you’ll be issued with a 3rd Class Letter of Evidence.
However, it’s worth noting that you’ll need to retake the same test every time you have to reapply for your medical certificate.
Also, if you fail one of the alternate FAA-approved tests, you’ll be required to take an Operational Color Vision Test (OCVT). This consists of a signal light test as well as a practical test.
Second-Class Medical Certificate
This is the one you need to get a Commercial Pilot License. If during your medical exam you fail the pseudoisochromatic color plate test and one of the FAA-approved alternate tests, you’ll need to take an OCVT test.
To get a second-class medical certificate, you also need to pass a color vision medical flight test (MFT). This is an actual flight test.
If you pass both the OCVT and MFT tests, you’ll be given a Letter of Evidence that is valid for all classes of medical certificates and has no restrictions.
First-Class Medical Certificate
A first-class medical certificate has the same requirements as a second-class medical certificate. If passed, you’ll be entitled to an Airline Transport Pilot License.
How to Become a Pilot If You’re Colorblind
As you can see from the different classes of medical certificates above, there are certain loopholes you can use to become a pilot if you’re colorblind. However, it will be harder to try and get your commercial pilot’s license.
To start the process of becoming a pilot, you need to undergo a color blindness screening with an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME). This is also the traditional route that everybody with aspirations of becoming a pilot takes.
During this test, the AME will most likely use the FAA-recommended Richmond HRR (Hardy Rand and Rittler) pseudoisochromatic test. This will test for any color deficiencies and, ultimately, determine if you are colorblind and how severely you are affected.
However, as a colorblind person, you’re quite likely to fail these tests. But, as we’ve explained above when going through the details of each class of medical certificate, you are allowed to take an alternative test if it’s FAA-approved.
These tests include the following:
- American Optical Company (AOC)
- Richmond, 15-plates
If you fail any of these tests, the final option you have is to take a Specialized Operational Medical Test. This test can be taken only once and, if failed, no form of testing may be used again.
While you can still be a commercial pilot if you’re colorblind, it’s undoubtedly harder to obtain a class of medical certificate that will give you access to a Commercial Pilot License.
It’s also worth noting that, if you do manage to pass the alternative tests and get your license, you will be restricted to commercial and private planes. This means that there is a very small chance that you’d be able to fly a military aircraft.
But, the good news (and the main takeaway) here is that if you’re colorblind and you want to become a commercial pilot, it’s still something that is within your reach. Do your research, find which alternative FAA-approved tests you’re most likely to pass, and pretty soon you’ll be able to take to the skies!