Color blindness for FAA Physical
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I am curious what happens to someone who cannot pass the color blindness part of a Class III FAA physical.  I have perfect color vision, but was just curious. It seems that the color blindness test involves the ability to see light gun signals from the tower in event of a radio failure.  Is this really necessary these days? 
25 Replies
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I failed the color vision test on my first class 3 medical. Had to get a waiver that entailed a series of light signals sent from the tower while an a FAA inspector observed. Never had to take the color vision test on any subsequent flight physicals. That was 50 years ago and a 39 year airline career, I don’t think it has changed.
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My experience was like yours, but it's more complicated now. See Color Vision Test  You can still fly in the daytime with defective color vision as long as you avoid situations requiring light gun signals.

I'm glad I received my SODA before the new testing requirements came.
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If you fail the color blind test at your physical you can take a couple of other practical tests. The Farnsworth Lantern test being one. Or the light gun from tower test that would be set up through FSDO. If you fail all of those, you will have a restriction on your medical that says "Not valid for night flying or color signal control".
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I have had recent experience with this exact situation. After flying for 20 plus years I failed my class 3 color blindness test at my last physical. The AME put a restriction on my medical stating "Not valid for night flying or light gun control". 

Needless to say I was shocked and angry. My favorite time to fly is at night. I had even just bought a light twin, a Seneca, just to add to the safety factor of flying at night, among other reasons.

 The concept of flight control by light gun signals is beyond antiquated. I don't know about you but, when was the last time you heard a story conveyed that somebody had to land via light signals.

In today's day and age I fly with two panel mounted radios, a handheld radio in the seat back pocket, and worst case scenario we all have cell phones in the cockpit.  Australia does not even require color vision for their commercial pilots.
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Frank, your post could have been written by me, exact same thing back in 1979 for me.
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I had to land using light gun signals last year.  The ELT in my rental Warrior started going off (no idea how it tripped) when I was about 10nm from my home airport, a class D.  The closest uncontrolled airport was on the other side of the class D, which sits next to a class B.  The Warrior had 2 radios, but the ELT signal totally overwhelmed everything and I could not hear any transmissions (I found out after I landed that tower could hear me 5x5).  We had cellphones, but I didn't have the tower number handy.  So I squawked 7600 and flew in via light gun, smooth and no complications.

So while rare, it still happens.