Roughly 4.5% of the population reports having at least some level of color blindness. This percentage is even higher for men with 8% reporting some level of color blindness.
If you are interested in becoming an air traffic controller and have some degree of color blindness, you might want to know if your condition will prevent you from getting hired. Since color blindness is a common condition, this is a very common question for prospective air traffic controllers.
So, can you be an air traffic controller if you are color blind?
Yes, you can be an air traffic controller as long as you have adequate color vision to safely operate current air traffic control technologies.
In this article we will take a look at the specific policies the FAA has for people who are color blind as well as some details you’ll want to know.
Why Color Blindness is an Issue for Air Traffic Controllers
A big part of an air traffic controllers job is looking at their screen and helping guide aircraft based on the information on that screen.
They use several different types of software programs that help them manage flights in real time. This includes tools like radars and communications tools to help effectively organize and guide aircraft.
These screens often times use different colors to represent different information. For example, different aircraft are displayed on the screen in different colors. Being able to recognize those colors and use that information to make decisions is vital to the job.
In order for the communication to pilots to be safe and accurate, an air traffic controller will need to have precise information. Since that information is color coded for clarity, being able to see those colors is crucial.
Related: Requirements to be an air traffic controller
FAA Rules and Testing
In 2006 the FAA set out to develop and implement a new color blindness test for air traffic controllers. The goal was to effectively determine if you had enough color vision to effectively do the job.
Since different people have different degrees and variations of color blindness it isn’t as easy as saying someone is color blind and therefore can’t do the job. Doing this would unfairly eliminate people from having the job who could actually do a good job.
In 2009 the FAA rolled out it’s new Air Traffic Color Vision Test. This new way of determining if a prospective air traffic controller’s color blindness will prevent them from effectively performing job duties.
Here’s how it works.
If a candidate fails their clinical color blindness test they are referred to a Regional Flight Surgeon or Medical Field Office for the new ATCOV (Air Traffic Color Vision Test). Candidates who are able to show that they are able to use the equipment and see information needed from the display are able to move forward in the hiring process.
This prevents candidates from being eliminated from consideration unnecessarily.
Your Next Steps
If you are thinking about applying to become an air traffic controller but are concerned that your color blindness will be an issue you should go ahead and apply and plan to discuss the issue when the time comes in the interview process.
The recruiters and other professionals you will work with have had these scenarios come up before and have much better insight. They will be able to give you much more information and steer you in the right direction.
The important thing to remember is that there is a wide spectrum of color blindness and that there are many people who are still able to see and use the instruments and monitors just fine. As long as you are able to perform the job function and pass the ATCOV test, you should be fine. Do not assume that a previous diagnosis of being color blind will automatically disqualify you from being an air traffic controller.
Air traffic controllers rely on getting information from various computer and radar systems while doing their jobs. Since much of this information is relayed using colors for things like airplanes and weather patterns, being able to see colors is very important in this role.
Air traffic controllers play a key role in aviation safety, so not being able to see and process all needed information quickly and accurately could create an unsafe situation for pilots, cabin crew and passengers.
You can be an air traffic controller if you are color blind, as long as you are still able to see colors well enough to perform job functions effectively.
If you are interested in potentially becoming an air traffic controller, you should reach out to the FAA to learn more. It’s a rewarding career that makes a huge difference in the world.