My Name is Nate. I am beginning to complete the steps necessary for enrollment to ATP.
I have scheduled an appointment for a 1st Class Medical Certificate in early March with my local AME. However, I am aware that I have a color vision deficiency. I know this could prove to be an issue. However, I have been doing some reading and I found some information that said I could have my eyes tested with a different test at an optimist, which may give me a better chance at passing. I was reading about it in the article below.
Does anyone have any insight on this? Being an Airline Pilot is something I am really passionate about and I would hate if I couldn’t do it because of this.
Hopefully some students/pilots with actual experience in this will chime in. What you do need to do is inform the AME you made the appointment with that you have an issue. Not all AME’s can/will do alternative vision tests and you can’t expect to walk into you appt in March and say “oh btw I have a color vision deficiency” and expect them to be prepared to accommodate you. This will result in a bust and then you’ll need to start the process over trying to obtain a SODA (Statement of Demonstrated Ability). Better to be proactive and tell the AME what’s going on BEFORE you take the medical. They’re the experts and will best be able to advise you. It may be a simple process or they may direct you elsewhere but again best to no before hand.
While we are happy to assist with questions on this forum, we stay away from any medical related questions as none of us are qualified to answer them. I would encourage you to contact AOPA as they have some medical resources that might be available to you for a small fee.
I second Chris and Adam’s recommendations. As someone who went through the process to get a SODA I have some experience and if you search on the board you can see where we have discussed it before.
In my case I had no idea I had a deficiency until I went to the AME so I was issued a night flying restricted medical until I could obtain a SODA. At the advise of my instructor I waited to get the SODA before doing my private check-ride so I would be issued an unrestricted license. It ended up extending my private training around 2-3 months as I waited for the FAA to come out and do the tests.
Now that I have the SODA I don’t even have to do the color blindness tests when I go in for a medical. I just show them the SODA and we skip that part of the test.
I am also in your boat with the color deficiency. I have always struggled with the color plates and assumed that being a pilot was a no-go for me. With some research through AOPA and a few other places I found the FALANT test (or the Lantern test as it is known). The trick is to find someone who still has one of these pieces of equipment. I used the group in Phoenix (my flight surgeon) and went through their full color vision screening process using every available book and test to see where my strengths (mostly weaknesses) were. Now I know that there are two tests that I can pass with ease and just need to make sure my future AME has those tests. Which could possibly mean annual and semiannual trips to Phoenix in the future. According to my AME there, if I can pass one of the FAA approved color tests, there is no need to go through the process of secondary testing. Hope this helps.
I just wanted to say thank you for your suggestion. I took your advice and let my AME know of the color deficiency before hand. They were able to give me an alternative test and I was able to obtain my certificate with no restrictions. Thank you for your help.
The FALANT and the OPTEC-6000 I think were the two. They are basically the same test, just different manufacturers. They use a combination of red, green, and white lights. It shows two lights in any combination of the 3.
As Jason said ABOVE he didn’t even realize he had an issue until he went for his physical. It’s best to work with your local AME as they’ll no what options/tests are available in your area. I’d contact one and let them know before hand your situation/concerns and they’ll be able to council you.
Like Adam said it’s probably best that you contact your local AME and get some dialog started with them on what to do.
To give you an idea how mine worked though… My instructor and the flight school did pretty much all the work. I had three different instructors over the course of my private at three different flight schools. First one I didn’t solo with so we didn’t know anything about it (student cert/medical not issued yet). I did most of my training and flying with the second instructor but he wasn’t very concerned about the restriction. By the time I got to the third instructor and flight school I was right around 40 hours and pretty much ready for my private checkride. That instructor was younger and he was headed to the airlines (flies for Skywest now), so he was very concerned about the restriction as he felt I had similar goals and aspirations as he did. He worked with the chief pilot to figure out what to do. They essentially gave me a hands on test. We went over colors on the sectional and when we were flying he asked me to point out the different color lights on the airport. I didn’t have any problems doing any of this so my flight school worked with the FSDO to schedule an FAA examiner to come out and conduct a test. The FAA examiner came out, we went over colors on the sectional and then we went to the end of the runway for a signal light test. He called the tower with his cell phone… they flashed the lights and I said what color each was. I was easily able to identify them so this only lasted a few minutes. After that the FAA examiner told me he would issue a SODA when he got back to the office so I should see it in the mail in a couple of weeks. After receiving the SODA I scheduled another medical exam in order to get the night restriction removed from my medical. All of this was a fairly lengthy process and it took around 3-4 months, but I couldn’t have done this on my own. The flight school and my instructor were instrumental in the process.
Bottom line is when it comes to issues like this you aren’t going to find all the answers to your specific issue on a web forum so that is probably why it’s confusing. You need to start working with an AME and probably an instructor to figure out all your options. In my case it was a very mild red/green color blindness that didn’t transpire into real life situations so it was pretty simple. It just took lots of time to get everything processed.
I definitely do not expect to figure out everything through researching online only, but I wanted some rough guidance before mumbling through with various people of FAA. I placed my request in by fax on Friday and I feel a little more confident knowing some of the details from you. I also visited a couple of local airports and looked at some of the lights and VFR Map with someone that is not color blind and I was able to distinguish all colors.
I am only a couple of months away from quitting my perfectly fine career to do this, so I just need a lot of info coming in to reassure me. My job will take me back, but I set my goal to see this through, so this unexpected news really threw me off. I am glad I passed my physical, but I didn’t expect to fail the color deficiency test.
Sounds like your situation may be similar to mine then. I had no idea either as I never had any issues identifying colors in real life. The actual test with the FAA guy was very easy for me. Sounds like you are on the right track.
It might be good to at least go do an intro flight with an instructor to see how things look from the air. One of the biggest was being able to distinguish the red or white lights of the PAPI or VASI. I flew to a few different nearby airports that had the different lighting systems with my instructor and he had me identify which ones were red vs white.