Why Cant Colorblind People Fly Jets

Flying jets is often considered a prestigious and thrilling career path that requires exceptional skills and abilities. However, one specific challenge to pose a barrier to individuals aspiring to become pilots is can people be pilots if they are colorblind. Color vision deficiency, commonly known as color blindness, affects a significant number of people, making it essential to examine the impact of this condition on the ability to fly jets.

Color vision is vital in aviation, particularly in situations where the ability to differentiate between specific colors is crucial for operational safety. For instance, red and green lights are often used as navigation, signaling, and runway lighting indicators. Colorblindness can impair an individual’s ability to accurately perceive and distinguish these colors, posing potential risks during critical flight operations.

Regulatory bodies and aviation authorities have implemented stringent color perception standards to ensure pilots can accurately identify and interpret color signals. Pilots need to be able to fly at night or in low-visibility conditions. So, they must be able to identify and respond to color-coded visual cues and instruments effectively.  Failing a color vision test can restrict an individual’s ability to pursue a career as a pilot. Color perception is a vital requirement for obtaining medical certifications and licenses. (Read Do Air Force Pilots Carry Guns)

Military Pilot Color Vision

While there are alternative methods, like contrast cone tests, to assess an individual’s color perception abilities, these tests may not always comprehensively assess a pilot’s capability to operate an aircraft safely. Regulatory requirements and safety considerations necessitate pilots to show proficiency in color perception as part of their medical certifications.

For example, the military uses a Contrast Cone Test (CCT) to test blue, red, and green color vision. The military also uses the PIP and Farnsworth Lantern test for the level of color perception testing. However, colorblind individuals may pursue other avenues within aviation, like being among the people on the ground.

If you want to be a pilot, some advancements allow pilots who would otherwise fail a colorblind test to fly.  In our guide, you can learn more about being a pilot if you are colorblind and what’s involved with a color blindness test. By the end, you’ll better understand how pilots perceive different colors, the colorblindness test used, and the type of flying positions available.

Understanding Color Vision For a Military Pilot

Color blindness is a condition that affects a significant portion of the population, with estimates suggesting that around 8% of men and 0.5% of women worldwide experience some form of color vision deficiency.

People with color blindness have difficulty distinguishing certain colors or perceiving them accurately. The most common type of color vision deficiency is red-green color blindness, where individuals struggle to differentiate between shades of red and green. One common area of vision failure is to identify signal lights. (Read Shelf Life Of Kerosene Fuel)

The Color Vision Test for Pilots

One might wonder why full or partially color-blind pilots are such a big deal. In aviation, color-coded signals and seeing different colored lights in instruments are vital in communication and navigation. From runway lights to instrument panels, accurate interpretation of colors can be critical for flight safety.

Traditionally, impaired color vision individuals faced significant challenges in aviation because of concerns that they might misinterpret important visual cues. However, recent studies and advancements have shown that color vision deficiency alone does not necessarily impede one’s ability to fly safely.

Color Vision Testing and Regulations

Regulatory bodies and medical authorities have established specific tests to evaluate color vision in pilots to ensure safety and maintain high standards in aviation. The most common test is the Ishihara Color Test, which comprises a series of plates containing circles filled with colored dots.

Individuals with normal color vision can identify numbers or patterns within the circles, while those who are color deficient or partially color blind struggle to see or correctly identify them. In reality, they struggle to see one color from another. In the past, color vision testing often resulted in a color blind person being disqualified from becoming pilots.

However, recognizing the need for inclusivity and with advancements in understanding color vision, regulatory bodies have adopted more flexible and nuanced approaches to evaluating color vision in aspiring pilots. Much of the regulation and increase in color blindness rules involved a commercial pilot and a FedEx plane in 2002. (Read Can I Bring Melatonin Gummies On A Plane)

Color Blindness Regulations and Opportunities

Recognizing that color vision deficiency alone does not necessarily impact one’s ability to fly safely, aviation authorities worldwide have introduced alternative color vision testing methods to assess a pilot’s competence. Instead of solely relying on traditional color vision tests, they now consider other factors like operational tests, flight experience, and practical evaluations. 

The Role of Technology

Besides evolving regulations, advancements in aviation technology have played a significant role in opening up opportunities for colorblind individuals to pursue a career as professional pilots. Modern cockpit displays and instruments employ high-resolution screens with adjustable color palettes, allowing for customization and optimization of visual information.

By using these technologies, colorblind pilots can enhance their ability to differentiate between colors, interpret visual cues, and make informed decisions during flight.

Medical Flight Tests, color vision and color perception

Medical Flight Tests and Color Perception Standards

Aspiring pilots with color vision and color perception issues may need to undergo specialized medical flight tests to demonstrate their ability to operate aircraft safely. These tests evaluate an individual’s overall visual capabilities, including their ability to perceive different colored lights, read instrument displays, and make accurate judgments during simulated flight scenarios.

By successfully completing these assessments and demonstrating their competence, colorblind individuals can obtain the medical certification to pursue a career as professional pilots.

Opportunities in Military Aviation

While becoming a military pilot with a color vision deficiency may have additional challenges, it is not entirely out of reach. Military aviation often requires specific visual acuity standards due to the unique demands of combat and operational scenarios.

Color Vision Test for Pilots

Pilots must undergo a color vision test as part of their medical examination to assess color vision. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States sets standards for color vision. It utilizes various tests, such as the Operational Color Vision Test (OCVT) and the Ishihara test, to evaluate a pilot’s ability to perceive colors accurately. (Read Things To Do Closest To Batu Ferringhi Night Market)

Perception Standards for Pilots

Aviation authorities have established color perception standards to ensure pilots can safely and accurately interpret color-coded signals and instruments. These standards aim to maintain operational safety and minimize the risk of misinterpreting critical information. Pilots must be able to differentiate between different colors to fly safely and effectively.

Restrictions on Colorblind Pilots

Unfortunately, colorblind individuals may face restrictions when pursuing a career as jet pilot. Colorblindness, particularly in its severe forms, can significantly impair a pilot’s ability to accurately perceive and interpret essential color-coded information.

Medical certification requirements often necessitate normal color vision, and failing the color vision test can limit an individual’s eligibility to become a pilot.

The Impact of Colorblindness on Operational Safety

Safety concerns primarily drive the limitations placed on colorblind pilots. Colorblind individuals might not be able to identify specific colors accurately, which can compromise their ability to operate an aircraft safely. This is especially crucial when recognizing and responding to signals, approach lights, and airport beacons.

In the United States, for instance, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) offers different classes of medical certificates for pilots. Third-Class Medical Certificates, the most common type, do not require perfect color vision. If an individual’s color vision deficiency does not hinder their ability to perform essential aviation tasks safely, they may be eligible for this certificate.

Medical Certifications for Pilots

Medical certifications, such as the first or second-class medical certificate, for pilots are required and involve thoroughly examining an individual’s health, including color vision. These certifications help ensure that pilots meet the physical and medical standards to perform their duties safely.

Aviation authorities have established guidelines and color vision testing procedures for aspiring aviators to ensure the safety of pilots and those on the ground. These tests aim to assess an individual’s ability to identify and differentiate colors accurately. One widely used color vision test is the Color Vision Medical Flight Test, which measures a pilot’s ability to perceive different colors effectively. The test involves presenting individuals with various stimuli, including lights of different colors, and evaluating their responses.

By analyzing the results, aviation medical examiners can determine the extent of an individual’s color vision deficiency and its potential impact on their piloting abilities. Anyone taking a medical exam and a test that shows the level of colorblindness. You will receive a letter of evidence and medical certificate when passing a MFT and OCVT test.


Color perception is a vital aspect of aviation, and the restrictions placed on colorblind individuals in pursuing careers as jet pilots are rooted in safety considerations. Accurately perceiving and interpreting color-coded information is crucial for safe flight operations.

While colorblindness may limit opportunities in flying jets, there are alternative paths in aviation that colorblind individuals can explore. The industry continues to prioritize operational safety, and color perception standards are essential in ensuring the safety of pilots and those on the ground.

So, if you are a color-blind individual passionate about aviation, fear not! Explore the opportunities available in your region, consult with aviation medical examiners, and learn about the alternate color vision tests that can open the doors to the cockpit. With determination, perseverance, and a commitment to safety, you can defy the limits imposed by color vision deficiency and unlock a world of possibilities as a pilot.

Color vision tests do pilots undergo


Can colorblind individuals become pilots?

While colorblind individuals may face limitations in becoming jet pilots, there are alternative pathways in aviation that they can explore, like private pilot licenses or roles in civilian aviation.

What color vision tests do pilots undergo? 

Pilots undergo various color vision tests, including the Operational Color Vision Test (OCVT) and the Ishihara test, to evaluate their ability to perceive colors accurately.

Are there different color perception standards for military pilots?

Yes, the military may have its own color perception standards for pilots, which may differ from those of civilian aviation. Some military branches may allow partially colorblind individuals to become pilots based on specific performance criteria.

Can pilots with mild color deficiency receive additional training?

Pilots with mild color deficiency can receive specialized training and safety measures to enhance their operational capabilities. This training may focus on interpreting alternative cues to compensate for color perception limitations.

How do color perception standards contribute to aviation safety? 

Color perception standards are crucial for aviation safety, ensuring pilots can accurately interpret color-coded signals, instruments, and visual cues. This promotes the safe operation of aircraft and minimizes the risk of misinterpretation.

Why Cant Colorblind People Fly Jets

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