Colour Vision Defective Pilots Association

Andrew Thomas

My name is Andrew Thomas - I am currently a First Officer on the Boeing 737.  When I was in year 11 at school I found out I had a colour vision defect (deuteranopia) after attempting a Class 1 Medical.  Unfortunately, the Ophthalmologist who did my medical was misinformed and advised me I would be unable to become a commercial pilot or fly an aircraft at night.  Luckily, I sought a second opinion which came from Dr Arthur Pape, who advised me I would be able to obtain a Commercial Pilots Licence.  At this time I decided I would pursue a career in aviation as it had always been my dream.

Throughout the first couple of years of my flying career I attempted the Tower Signal Light Test, The Farnsworth Lantern Test and the Practical Lantern Test; all of which I was unsuccessful at passing.  This meant that my Medical carried the restrictions: ‘Valid up to and including CPL’ and ‘Valid in Australian Airspace Only.’  With these restrictions on my medical I gained experience flying C182, C206, C210, BE58, C402/404 and also Metroliners.  I held my command on the Metro but was unable to operate as PIC on RPT routes.  In late 2008, with some legal help, I wrote a letter to CASA requesting to have the restrictions removed.  In the letter we quoted the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Decisions from the Denison vs. CAA case.  At this time I received my medical without restriction.  I was therefore able to fly as PIC on RPT routes and in 2010 I gained employment flying the Boeing 737 as a First Officer.

After doing my medical renewal prior to Christmas 2011, my medical was returned with restrictions placed back on it, namely; ‘Not Valid for ATPL Operations’ and ‘Holder does not fully meet the requirements of ICAO Convention Chapter 6 of Annex 1.’   The response from CASA was that the restrictions were mistakenly removed in the first place and would remain (a mistake they managed to make 3 years in a row!)

This prevents me from advancing my career any further as I will be unable to achieve my command with my current employer.  It also limits my career options greatly if my current employment were jeopardised for any reason.  I now have a second submission in with CASA and I am currently awaiting a reply.  If this is unsuccessful my only option is to mount an appeal against CASA to have this situation sorted out definitively.  It would be quite a challenge to do this as an individual.  It is great that there are other highly experienced colour deficient pilots that are ready to also take on the challenge.  Hopefully with the added support of the wider pilot community we can have the problem settled once and for all!