Colour Vision Defective Pilots Association

FAQ

Why has Arthur waited twenty years since the Landmark Decisions?

We needed to develop a sizeable population of CVD pilots with sufficient experience from which data could be gathered.  That phase has now matured – we have CVD pilots as captains in major airlines flying into many international destinations.

Why wasn’t the Landmark AAT Decision enough?

Those that fail the tower light gun test or the practical lantern test in Australia are still denied an unrestricted career.  We owe it to them and all CVD pilots worldwide to finish the job we started and ensure that worldwide change takes place.  Arthur is driven by thousands of CVD pilots in Australia and worldwide who want to fly both privately and professionally without restriction.

What about the Tallahassee Accident?

An accident in Tallahassee, Florida in 2002 is the only accident on record where the colour vision deficiency of the pilot was implicated as a factor.  A FedEx B727 crashed at night well short of the runway while conducting a black hole approach.  There were three crew on board and the approach was being flown by an ex-US Navy Pilot who had a colour vision deficiency.  Anyone who is interested can access the full report on the NTSB website.  What is clear from the report is that only one of the crew had a colour vision deficiency and that was the first officer, who was at the controls at the time of the accident.  The Captain and Flight Engineer both had normal colour vision, yet all three of them failed to heed what the PAPI lights were indicating.  The evidence given to the NTSB on the matter of colour vision was from a single source, whose enthusiasm for promoting colour vision standards is legendary and was not subject to the fundamental legal process of ‘cross examination’.  The laying of the ‘blame’ for the accident on the CVD First Officer, demonstrates a fundamentally flawed and unjust process.  If further legal challenges are mounted against the colour perception standard, the ‘Tallahassee accident’ will feature greatly.

We have researched this accident extensively including reviewing almost 200 submissions (dockets) provided to the NTSB from various parties which were relied upon in producing the final accident report. In these dockets, there are numerous contradictions which infer that that the real culprit was the failure of the PAPI device itself to provide correct glideslope information to the three pilots on the flight deck under the prevailing meteorological conditions. In the crash of FedEx Flight 1478 all three crew were actively involved in the approach and none saw the four red lights that the PAPI should have been displaying. They flew the aircraft as if the PAPI was showing four white lights, indicating to them that the approach was too high.

This alternative explanation for the crash is supported by three separate scientific studies which were conducted years earlier, from Australia, the USA and Canada. These studies showed that under certain meteorological conditions the signal from the PAPI could be degraded to such an extent that the observer would perceive a “fly down” display when in fact the approach angle was already dangerously low.  This “fail unsafe” condition is independent of the colour vision of the observer.

A summary of these findings was recently published in an article for the Journal of Australasian Society of Aerospace Medicine (October 2013).  Click here to read.

Are colour vision tests reliable? 

The science of colour vision testing is well established and very reliable in detecting and diagnosing that a person has ‘colour vision deficiency’.  A comprehensive battery of tests can determine fairly precisely exactly what type and severity of deficiency a particular person has.

What do the terms ‘Protan’, ‘Deutan’ and ‘Tritan’ mean?

There are three types of colour sensitive pigment in the retina of the eye.  The first is sensitive in the red part of the visible spectrum and a deficiency affecting this pigment results in the diagnosis of ‘Protan.’  If the deficiency is partial, the individual is said to be a ‘Protanomal’ and if the deficiency is total, the diagnosis is ‘Protanope’.

The second pigment is sensitive to green wavelengths and deficiency of it leads to a category called ‘Deutan’.  If the deficiency is partial, the individual is said to be ‘Deuteranomal’ and a total deficiency resulting in ‘Deuteranope.’

The third of the pigments involves the blue part of the spectrum.  ‘Tritan’, ‘Tritanomal’ and ‘Tritanope’ are the relevant terms when this pigment is involved in the deficiency.

How can I find out what type I am?

There are specialists testing centres, usually attached to Colleges of Optometry at the major universities.  At these centres the diagnosis is made by testing the individual, usually on quite a number of different tests.  We strongly advise that people who fail the screening tests, such as the Ishihara Plate Test, should have themselves diagnosed properly, just out of interest.

How is it that I’m ‘colour blind’ when I know I can see the colours in traffic signals and things like that?

If small samples of the traffic lights were made, so that they looked like pinpricks of light, you may not be able to ‘see’ the colours, whereas those who have normal colour vision are able to see them.  What matters more is what you do while driving when confronted with a coloured traffic light signal.  All the evidence suggests that people with defective colour vision drive as safely as those with normal colour vision and that’s the only thing that matters.  Most road traffic authorities do not restrict colour vision defective drivers because of the evidence that they drive safely.  The aviation regulators can learn a lot from the road traffic evidence.

How do I know that if I subscribe to the CVDPA, that I will be able one day to fly without restriction?

Firstly, we stand on our record of our past performance.  For over twenty five years, Arthur Pape has stood up for the rights of colour vision defective pilots in Australia.  We have had resounding success, with CVD pilots of all types and severity now enjoying unrestricted careers at the top of the aviation industry in Australia.  The arguments that were put forward to achieve those results are no less true for any other country in the world.  However, the legal systems of other countries may not be as ‘fair’ or ‘just’ as what we have in Australia.  That is something that must still be thoroughly examined and researched.   At the end of the day, nobody can give guarantees as to any positive outcomes.  However, without the support of many thousands, it is likely that nothing will ever change.

What can I do if the Authority in my own country doesn’t want to give me an unrestricted licence? 

Firstly, tell us about it and tell us what they have said to you to justify the discrimination against you.  For example, do they raise examples such as the ‘Tallahassee Accident’ or the ‘ICAO rules’.  Ask them if you can at least train at night with a colour normal instructor and let us know their answer and so forth.  Tell us, and we can expose what they are doing.  Anything you are able to source in writing can be used to expose their arguments and we can get to work and write about them on this website.  We will use this website the way that 20+ years ago, Arthur Pape used the Australian AOPA Magazine to expose the nonsense that our own authority in Australia was putting forward.  On your own, you are practically powerless, but when we get the numbers up and the funds, that will be an entirely different story!

Why is Arthur still pursuing this?

Good question!  Had he have known thirty years ago that it would become the massive undertaking that it eventually became, he possibly might have never started.  The further he got into it, the more inspiration he recieved from the pilots who approached him for guidance.  He came to realise what a political issue the colour perception standard really was.  It got nasty, and petty on behalf of the people he was confronting.  These same issues are still in play today.  The only difference is now we have the pilots who are both severely colour vision deficient and who are happily employed as captains in our airlines, big and small.  They are judged by their peers and their company check and training officers and their performance continues to be judged as ‘safe’.  What more is there you can ask of them?  In short, Arthur remains passionate about seeing the challenge through!