Colour-blind? You can still become a pilot

Thousands rejected in the past could be cleared for take-off by new examination

Thousands of people prevented from becoming pilots because of their colour-blindness could get another chance to follow their childhood dreams, thanks to the development of a revolutionary eye test.

Until now, people with even minor forms of the condition – which affects one in 20 men and one in 200 women – have been unable to fly commercial aircraft because traditional tests are only able to detect that the problem exists, not its severity. But a new examination developed by scientists at City University in London can pinpoint the exact level of a person's colour-blindness and immediately indicate whether their vision meets the minimum requirements for flight safety.

Colour-blindness is caused when the eye's light-sensitive cells, known as "cones", are faulty or missing. The most common form is red-green deficiency, in which the subject may be unable to distinguish between the two colours. Most people are born with it, but it can also arise as a result of illness or medical treatment.

The new test stems from research sponsored by Britain's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the US Federal Aviation Administration, which wanted to establish a more accurate way of assessing a person's colour vision to create fairer guidelines for those hoping to become pilots. In a report, the CAA estimated that using the new method will allow more than a third of those affected by colour-blindness to become pilots.


Try the test for yourself




It said: "If the new standard and tests were to be adopted, it is anticipated that, on average, 35 per cent of applicants currently excluded on the basis of conventional colour vision tests would be accepted as safe to fly."

Colour-blindness affects far more men than women because it is almost always passed down on the X chromosome. It has only to appear on a man's single X chromosome for him to be affected; for a woman it must be present on both X chromosomes.

For commercial pilots, good colour recognition is crucial when guiding a plane in to land, because runways are equipped with special lights that change colour depending on the angle of the plane's descent. Eye tests are a requirement for those who want to pursue jobs in the military, police, fire service and transport sectors as well as aviation. Many employers in these areas are likely to follow the CAA's lead in putting the new test to use.

Sally Evans, the CAA chief medical officer, said the authority hoped to start putting applicants through the new test within two or three months. Yesterday, she addressed a meeting in Latvia of the chief medical officers of Europe's main aviation authorities to promote its use. Those who have previously been rejected because of their colour-blindness are being encouraged to try again.

"Because some people in the past were put off from even applying if they knew they had a colour deficiency, it is difficult to say what proportion of potential applicants are being excluded at the moment," Ms Evans said. "But anybody who has failed in the past is welcome to apply, although obviously there isn't a guarantee that they will pass this time."

Seeing is believing: The new test

* In a standard Ishihara test, a person is shown green, red and orange dots in patterns. Colour-blind people cannot differentiate between the colours and pick out a pattern.

* In the new test, the person is shown coloured blocks in a grey square that jump to new positions as he tracks them. The process is repeated with different colours and hues. A colour-blind person will eventually be unable to detect the blocks' movements. The test shows how weak the colour was when it disappeared, placing the person on a colour-blindness scale.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
News
UK Border Control
i100
Arts and Entertainment
TV
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Office Administrator - Full or Part Time

£14600 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 2003 the company...

Recruitment Genius: Social Media & Content Marketing Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing, Google certi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 business...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has won the award ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn