FAA Policy for Pilots with Color Vision Deficiency

June 14, 2024
Rocky Jedick MD MBA

Color vision is crucial for pilots, as it plays a significant role in interpreting instrument readings, navigating airspace, and ensuring overall flight safety. However, some pilots face challenges passing standard color vision tests due to color vision deficiency (CVD). The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has specific policies and alternative pathways to ensure these individuals can still pursue their passion for flying despite having some degree of CVD.

The big takeaway is that the FAA requires airmen to pass ONLY ONE of the many FAA-approved color vision standard tests. If they fail all of these tests, they will have a limitation placed on their certificate that could present significant barriers to a career in aviation.

FAA Color Vision Requirements

The FAA requires all pilots to have adequate color vision to safely perform flight duties. 14 CFR Part 67 states pilots must have the “ability to perceive those colors necessary for the safe performance of airman duties.” This requirement ensures that pilots can accurately read cockpit instruments, distinguish between navigation lights, and identify color-coded airport signals.

Standard Color Vision Tests

The FAA allows several standard tests to assess a pilot's color vision. These can be found in the AME guide under Examination Techniques Item 52 (for ATCS see HERE).

Pseudochromatic Plates (PIP)
  • Farnsworth Lantern (FALANT): Involves identifying colored lights and is often considered the easiest test to pass.
  • Pseudoisochromatic (PIP) Plates: Ishihara, Dvorine, Richmond & others (most common test)
  • Computerized Tests
  • Additional Acceptable Tests:
    • OPTEC 900 Color Vision Test;
    • Keystone Orthoscope;
    • Keystone Telebinocular;
    • OPTEC 2000 Vision Tester (Model Nos. 2000 PM, 2000 PAME, and 2000 PI) - tester MUST contain the 2000-010 FAR color perception PIP plate to be approved;
    • OPTEC 2500;
    • Titmus Vision Tester;
    • Titmus i400

Alternative Pathways for Pilots with Color Vision Deficiency

If a pilot fails ALL of the standard color vision tests, the FAA provides alternative pathways to demonstrate their ability to safely operate an aircraft.

Ultimately, if they are unable to pass any of the above standard tests, the AME can still issue them a certificate (assuming they meet all other medical standards) with the limitation "Not valid for night flying or by color signal controls."

If an airman wants to get this limitation removed, they will have to work with the FAA directly to undergo some additional specialized in-flight evaluations. See below flow chart from the AME Guide.

Operational Color Vision Test (OCVT)

The OCVT is a practical, in-flight test that evaluates a pilot's ability to perform tasks requiring color vision under real-world conditions. It includes:

  • Signal Light Test: Identifying light signals from a control tower.
  • Color Chart Test: Reading and interpreting aeronautical charts.
  • Cockpit Instrument Test: Recognizing and using color-coded cockpit instruments.

Medical Flight Test (MFT)

The MFT is another in-flight evaluation conducted by an FAA aviation safety inspector or designated examiner. It assesses a pilot's ability to safely operate an aircraft despite their color vision deficiency. The test includes:

  • In-Flight Maneuvers: Demonstrating standard flight maneuvers while interpreting color signals and instruments.
  • Emergency Procedures: Handling simulated emergency situations where color recognition is crucial.

Tips for Pilots with Color Vision Deficiency

  1. Consult an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME): An AME can provide guidance on the best approach for your specific situation.
  2. Prepare for Alternative Tests: Familiarize yourself with the OCVT and MFT procedures.
  3. Seek Peer Support: Connect with other pilots who have successfully navigated the FAA's color vision requirements.


While color vision deficiency presents challenges, the FAA offers structured pathways for aspiring pilots to demonstrate their capabilities. By understanding these policies and preparing for alternative evaluations, pilots with color vision issues can still achieve their dreams of flying.

For further information, visit the FAA's official Color Vision Standards page.

Feel free to reach out with any questions or share your experiences in the comments below.

Safe flying!


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