New Zealand CAA: Changes to Colour Vision Assessment

The New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority have agreed a new General Directive (GD) that would allow suitably safe colour vision deficient (CVD) pilots to fly at CPL/ATPL level.

This comes after many years of work by some dedicated individuals and also the forward thinking approach of the NZ CAA.

Throughout this process they have stated that ’empirical and clinical evidence indicates that applicants with CVD are able to operate safely provided they have safely completed the applicable level of training and testing to demonstrate their competence and comply with any restrictions imposed.’

How refreshing to hear that.

What’s New?

Stage 1
The first stage is the Ishihara colour plate testing. We all know what this means and if you pass, you’re deemed colour safe.

Stage 2
Alternative colour vision testing forms the basis for stage 2. This will either be Holmes-Wright Lantern, Farnsworth Lantern, CAD test or the Farnsworth D15. If any of these are passed, the candidate will be deemed colour safe.

Until now, if you failed any of these you’re deemed colour unsafe (at least in UK CAA parlance). But what you’re actually being told is that yes, you have defective colour vision; nothing more. You aren’t being tested in a real-world environment. I know I failed a couple of these tests but rarely ever fail to identify navigation lights on aircraft flying overhead at night, or PAPIs, or aerodrome lighting.

Stage 3
This is where things are now taking a step into the 21st Century. The Operational Colour Vision Assessment (OCVA) appears to be a comprehensive assessment of the individuals ability to correctly identify information provided by lights, charts, aircraft systems and more.

It is not a test whereby the individual is required to name a colour, but rather that individual must correctly interpret the information that a particular colour is representing.

The day time portion of the assessment will include things such as:

  • Correctly interpreting aeronautical charts, including print in various colours and fonts, symbols, lines and terrain markings.’ This ‘may be performed in daylight or artificial light conditions’.
  • Correctly interpreting aircraft instrumentation and displays, particularly those with coloured markings, warning lights and coloured displays.
  • Thirdly,‘recognise terrain and obstructions including the surface condition of several emergency landing fields. The applicant should be able to describe surface features and obstructions.’

The night assessment covers the first two points of the day test, and in addition to identify the location and significance of lights on other aircraft or airfields, including:

  • Location and travel of other aircraft in the vicinity
  • Runway approach aids relevant to the type of aircraft
  • Runway edge, ends, centreline, touchdown zone, taxiway lead off lights
  • Taxiway lights
  • Holding points
  • Obstacles
  • Airport beacons

There is no requirement to identify light gun signals. Applicants at this stage will retain a restriction on their medical of:

‘Not valid for flight in the vicinity of a controlled aerodrome unless the aircraft is in radio contact with aerodrome control’

In other words, you can flight near an airport as long as you have a working radio.

Read the full contents of the General Direction here. The new procedures come into force 1 June 2019 and appear to offer a far more common sense and task relevant approach to colour vision testing than any other country.

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