Colour Vision and Aviation Safety Concerns

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Petitioning Deputy Prime Minister & Minister for Infrastructure & Regional Development The Hon Warren Truss MP

This petition will be delivered to:

Deputy Prime Minister & Minister for Infrastructure & Regional Development

The Hon Warren Truss MP

To intervene in the battle between colour vision defective pilots and CASA which threatens to destroy hundreds of careers.


In June 2014, the Aviation Medicine Branch (AvMed) of CASA made radical changes to its implementation of the Aviation Colour Perception Standard (ACPS).  Policies that had been in place for over twenty years and which had flowed from two landmark rulings by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) were suddenly and without notice abandoned, the new policies involving draconian restrictions the likes of which had not been seen in Australia for over half a century. In line with these new policies a number of colour vision defective (CVD) pilots, upon renewing their medical certificates, found they faced restrictions that made participation in professional aviation a practical impossibility. In addition, the new policies effectively closed off all pathways to a professional piloting career for new applicants with CVD.

The changes in the policies governing the implementation the ACPS were justified by the Principal Medical Officer (PMO) in the following statement he made in a letter to all Designated Aviation Medical Examiners (DAMEs): Recent medical research indicates that the safety-related implications of an individual’s CVD may be more significant than they were initially considered to be.” The letter to DAMEs was repeated in similar letters to CVD pilots and to all Australian AOC holders (the pilots’ employers), both containing the same claim as to “recent medical research”. This claim is not supported by any published evidence of unsafe performance by pilots with a CVD condition. Indeed, all the available evidence from both Australia and the USA is that the performance of CVD pilots is as safe as that of other pilots who do not have such a CVD condition.  At the very least, there is no evidence of unsafe performance by any CVD pilots as a consequence of their CVD condition.

The reversal of policies that were based on the findings of the two AAT decisions is a serious matter, and even more so when seen in the light of a twenty five year period of incident and accident-free performance at all levels, private and professional, by CVD pilots since those landmark decisions were handed down. These hearings are widely recognised, even today, as the most comprehensive and impartial examination of all aspects of the ACPS, that has ever been conducted in any place and at any time.

Not only do the changes in these policies amount to a denial of the AAT findings of 25 years ago, they are even more bizarre and baffling when it is realised that a new appeal by a CVD pilot had already been lodged before the AAT and was due for a hearing in July 2014. Preparation and documentation by both parties of the evidence for that hearing were well advanced when CASA dropped this bombshell.

The trio of CASA’s letters to DAMEs, CVD pilots and AOC holders have been widely condemned by many industry participants as a blatant form of institutional bullying.  As well, the taking away and then the re-instatement of “privileges”, within a span of mere days, of a number of CVD professional pilots has led to widespread industry outrage. Were it not so serious, it is quite farcical, and further exacerbates the broad lack of trust in CASA within the industry.

We petition Minister Truss to:

1.   Direct CASA to immediately retract the letters sent to DAMEs, AOC holders and CVD pilots and appropriately sanction those responsible for these letters.

2.   Direct CASA to immediately reverse the recent changes in policy that threaten the careers of hundreds of pilots and severely restrict new CVD pilots from being able to enter the aviation industry.

3.   In the event that CASA is allowed to continue pursuing this matter through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, that public funding be made available so that once again, a fair, thorough and unbiased re-test of the established tenet can be presented.

4.   To fund a study into the practical relevance of the aviation colour perception standard and its scientific basis so that Australia can continue to lead the rest of the world on this issue, as we have done for the past 25 years.

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