Color Vision / Dvorine Test

My son is pursuing a career in aviation and recently discovered he has a color deficiency.   We have taken most of the FAA approved vision tests with no success.  We are looking for an Optometrist / Opthamologist / AME or any doctors office that may have the Dvorine Plates.  Online information, including the AOPA indicate that the Dvorine has the highest success rate among people with color deficiencies.   Does anyone know pilot who has used this test or any office that may use the Dvorine plates?  

7 Replies

My DME, Dr. Dykema, referred me to an ophthalmologist several years ago, in Phoenix, that administered the Dvorine test.  It worked.  


The problem with seeking a doctor that will give a different type of color vision test is an AME will still administer the color vision test he/she has. Down the road your son might apply for a corporate job or airline and their own doctor might use the FAA standard. I found out I was color blind when I applied for my first medical as a student pilot. I got a waiver from the FAA, standard option for pilots with a color deficiency, and never had a problem. That was over 50 years ago and didn’t stop me from a 39 year airline career.  


If an applicant successfully completes an alternate test accepted by the FAA, they will be considered having acceptable color vision.  They will need to take the color vision test each time they reapply for a medical so they should take the same test they previously passed each time they reapply.  If the test is done with an outside specialist make sure to obtain a letter from that individual that mentions the type of color vision test administered as well as the passing results.  Take that letter to the AME at the time of the FAA exam and they will be able to issue a new certificate without a color vision restriction.  For more information on acceptable tests and the process go to the FAA website.  


I looked into taking a different color test as well but there were no docs within at least three hours that could perform any other test.  Then when I learned that I would have to perform the test each time I have my medical performed I figured I would just go through the FAA process to prove I can sufficiently see color.  It took a long time to hear back from the FAA but I am finally getting close to completing the exam with an FAA examiner.


@William Happel

William, I'm rarely here- and I hope you have this resolved by now.  I have both the Dvorines and a Farnsworth Lantern.  I have no idea where you reside- I'm in suburban CHI IL.

I do have to tell you that if you son is looking for a career, I do a bigger volume prepping the students for the OCVT +MFT…..that's a one and done but you can't waltz into it as it's a ONETIME only exam. Wearing my CFI hat I've been along on eleven such rides.





@Bruce Chien
I retired from the FAA (Operations Inspector) in November 2021 after 15 years.  I administered many light gun tests.  At some point, I reread the guidance in the 8900.1 and discovered that our office had been doing the test wrong.  I called CAMI and got verification of the procedure.  Especially in colder weather (around Chicago), we had not been waiting 1 minute between showing the lights.  CAMI indicated that the wait time is mandatory. Apparently, it is much easier for applicants to discern the colors, when given without the 1 minute wait. Applicants would go to nearby towers to practice for the SLT.  The towers didn't have time to wait 1 minute between colors, so pilots would show up believing that there would be no problem, but when faced with waiting 1 minute between colors, there was usually a problem.

During COVID, we were working from our homes.  I took the light gun to my home, so I wouldn't have to travel to the office to retrieve it for every test.  I ended up doing all the tests for the office.  Almost every applicant failed the SLT.  In late 2020 / early 2021, I worked with one applicant who had done a lot of prep work.  He noted that at the DuPage tower, they had an incandescent light gun and at the Aurora tower, they had an LED light gun and that there was a difference between the two.

Instead of using our office light gun, I met him at Aurora to do the test.  I took our light gun with.  He passed the SLT using the LED light gun.  I had given our light gun to the tower controller.  After the test was completed, I asked him to show each color from both guns simultaneously.  He did as I asked.  I took pictures of the two guns operated side by side.  The difference was amazing.  The LED light was much brighter.  The white color from our incandescent gun had a yellowish tint.

I showed the pictures to our office manager and requested that she initiate purchase of a new LED light gun.  She noted that the new LED light gun would cost around $5,000 and didn't think that it could be done.  I countered that we had been killing off pilot careers by using the antiquated light gun.  I persisted and eventually, we got the LED light gun.

Once in possession of the new light gun, I contacted CAMI.  There had been a couple of applicants who had missed only 1 or 2 lights with the old gun.  I sent the pictures of the two different light (side by side).  That was enough.  They authorized a retest for those applicants (normally retests are not authorized).  One took the retest and was successful.  The other didn't take the test right away, but he did call me a week ago, wanting to do the retest.  CAMI had reissued his authorization letter with a current date.

Bottom line, I always suggested that applicants go visit an opthalmologist (or a DME like Dr. Chien, who is experienced with tough cases) and take the color tests first.  This is because if you go take the SLT with the FAA and fail, you cannot then go take the color tests in an attempt to get medically certificated.  I had a conversation with my own opthalmologist and he confirmed my research on color deficiency, indicating that it is not a degenerative disease and if one is able to pass a color vision test today, he should be able to pass the same test in the future.

If you find yourself in a position where you will be taking the SLT with the FAA, make sure the test is administered using an LED light gun.