Another week, another inexplicable move by Australia’s beloved safety regulator. Relying on research into Colour Vision Disorder (CVD) – colour blindness – to which they can’t produce results, CASA has written to approximately 500 registered pilots, as well as 900 aviation operators employing vision affected pilots warning it is reviewing its research in the area.

CASA’s move is in response to medical research paper authored by Dougal B Watson and published in the Journal of Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine, which analysed the lack of international uniformity in testing for CVD in 78 countries. The report argues that the lack of uniformity may lead to a trade in ‘aero-medical tourism’ with pilots pursuing licences in countries with less restrictive regulatory regimes.

Suggesting that pilots suffering from CVD may be unsafe walks a very fine discrimination line. Pilots suffering from colour deficiencies have been able to fly in Australia, following favourable rulings on two cases by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in 1987 and 1989.

Over the quarter decade of aviation operations following the rulings there has been no serious incident involving a licensed pilot suffering colour blindness in Australia. CASA’s sudden moves on the issue suggest this is more than the regular review, perhaps endorsements have slipped through the cracks resulting in the lack of uniformity the paper refers to.

An excerpt from CASA’s letter to AOC holders:

“I write to you now, as the holder of an Air Operator’s Certificate who may employ one or more affected pilots, to encourage you to consider whether it is safe to allow those pilots to continue to exercise flight crew privileges under your AOC, subject only to the existing condition, and what adjustments to those arrangements you may consider to be appropriate, in the interests of safety, pending CASA’s further determination of the matter.”

CASA denies immediate implications, but it’s a move which may lead to a change in regulations and license suspension. As the air safety regulator it should continually review any safety matter. What remains inexplicable is CASA’s assertion that these pilots are suddenly unsafe, and in raging disregard for common sense, refuses to produce its own research endorsing its position. In this instance it seems CASA is blind.