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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation A-04-047
Details
Synopsis: On July 26, 2002, about 0537 eastern daylight time, Federal Express flight 1478, a Boeing 727-232F, N497FE, struck trees on short final approach and crashed short of runway 9 at the Tallahassee Regional Airport (TLH), Tallahassee, Florida. The flight was operating under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121 as a scheduled cargo flight from Memphis International Airport, in Memphis, Tennessee, to TLH. The captain, first officer, and flight engineer were seriously injured, and the airplane was destroyed by impact and resulting fire. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated on an instrument flight rules flight plan.
Recommendation: TO THE FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION: Based on the results of the research requested in Safety Recommendation A-04-46, develop a standard battery of tests to be performed at least once on each applicant for a Class 1 or 2 medical certificate that would prevent applicants with color vision deficiencies that could impair their ability to perform color-related critical aviation tasks from being certificated without limitations.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Open - Acceptable Response
Mode: Aviation
Location: Tallahassee, FL, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: DCA02MA054
Accident Reports: Collision With Trees on Final Approach Federal Express Flight 1478, Boeing 727-232
Report #: AAR-04-02
Accident Date: 7/26/2002
Issue Date: 6/10/2004
Date Closed:
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: FAA (Open - Acceptable Response)
Keyword(s): Medical

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: FAA
Date: 1/12/2016
Response: In your previous letter to us about this recommendation, you said that your Aerospace Human Factors Research Division had proposed to the Federal Air Surgeon a set of recommendations that would enhance your ability to identify airmen with acceptable color vision. We note that, after review of the recommendations, the Federal Air Surgeon directed that a study be conducted to assess their potential impact. The impact analyses that were subsequently performed, including the “cut score” (the color vision score required to pass the FAA’s medical color vision screening), revealed that not enough accidents attributable to color vision deficiency had occurred to justify the cost of revising a federal regulation. As a result, the Federal Air Surgeon directed that another review be performed, to identify alternatives that would improve initial screening but would not increase the number of medical flight tests. We understand that the second review seeks to develop cut scores on an enhanced battery of color vision tests (1) to eliminate the potential for airmen to memorize the tests and (2) to identify airmen with sufficient color vision deficiency to adversely affect safety. Pending completion of this review, and the enactment of the revised color vision testing program, Safety Recommendation A-04-47 remains classified OPEN—ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: FAA
To: NTSB
Date: 11/6/2015
Response: -From Michael P. Huerta, Administrator: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has made great advances in answering this recommendation. In 1996, the medical standard for color vision was revised from requiring normal color vision to the ability to perceive colors while performing safety duties to comply with disability laws. In 2004, the FAA realigned the Class 1 and Class 2 airmen medical standards to include a medical flight test to increase our ability to assess performance. The FAA has also reduced the number of initial screening tests available to airmen. The current battery of tests identifies airmen with color deficiency, and the certification process requires certificate limitations. The FAA also recognizes that color deficiency has many forms, resulting in a variety of phenotypic (observable physical or biochemical characteristics) manifestations. The FAA believes the key question is how to address an airman's right to remove the limitation once it can be shown that a pat1icular airman can perform duties safely. Our April 3, 2013.letter stated that the FAA's Aerospace Human Factors Research Division (AAM-500) proposed a set of reconu11endations to the Federal Air Surgeon that would enhance our ability to identify airmen who have the ability to perceive colors with little risk of an inability to discriminate colors used in the aircraft or airspace in which they operate. After review or the recommendations, the Federal Air Surgeon decided that further study was necessary to assess the impact of the recommendations before making a decision regarding their adoption and implementation. In October 2014, AAM-500 completed the impact analyses for these recommendations, including the cut score, defined as the score required for test-takers to pass the FAA's medical color vision screening. Given the low number of accidents potentially attributable to color vision deficiency, it was clear that this approach would not pass cost-benefit criteria applicable to changing Federal regulations. The Federal Air Surgeon directed AAM-500 to propose alternatives that would improve initial screening but not increase the nun1ber of medical night tests. We are currently refining the original recommendations to fine tune the cut scores on an enhanced test battery with the goal of eliminating the potential for memorization of the clinical tests, while identifying those airmen '"1ith sufficient color vision deficiency to adversely affect safety. The FAA plans to add routine screening for yellow-blue deficiencies, which research shows to be important to cockpit display color discrimination and authorize use of precision tests. I will keep the Board informed of the FAA's progress on this safety recommendation and provide an update by February 2016.

From: NTSB
To: FAA
Date: 5/29/2013
Response: We read with interest the research results and recommendations presented to the Federal Air Surgeon, who is currently reviewing this information. Pending adoption and implementation of the research team’s recommendations, Safety Recommendation A-04-47 remains classified OPEN—ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: FAA
To: NTSB
Date: 4/3/2013
Response: -From Michael P. Huerta, Administrator: Currently, pilot applicants are screened for color vision at each medical examination. The Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) Guide specifies 15 acceptable clinical screening tests: six Pseudo Isochromatic Plate tests and nine acceptable substitute instruments. Airmen who pass any of these tests may be cleared without restriction by an AME. No limit is imposed upon the number of tests attempted. Those failing clinical screening may be issued a certificate with a dual limitation, "not valid for night flight or under color signal control." These restrictions may be removed for Class III operations by successfully completing the Operational Color Vision Test (OCVT) consisting of signal light and chart reading testing at a Flight Standards District Office (FSDO). Class I and Class II operations require successful completion of the OCVT and a color vision Medical Flight Test (MFT) completed in an aircraft and in flight. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) conducted a series of studies in response to this recommendation. We documented color use in the pilot operating environment, including airport and approach lighting and signaling systems and cockpit use of color. In 2011, the Federal Air Surgeon convened a workgroup to review potential revisions to the testing process to ensure cleared pilots can discriminate airport surface lighting, glide path signaling systems, and cockpit displays. In 2012, the Aerospace Human Factors Research Division completed studies examining the performance of subjects with normal and deficient color vision on clinical screening tests, computer-based precision clinical instruments, and job sample tests of discrimination of signal lights, airport approach and surface lighting using both incandescent and light emitting diode sources, and cockpit display colors. Results revealed that failing even a single clinical screening test represents a doubling of risk of inability to discriminate colors required to perform safely, as measured by the job sample tests. The research team recommended that the Federal Air Surgeon: Limit opportunity to pass clinical screening to a single test attempt per medical exam; Add American Optical Company supplemental yellow-blue plates to red-green-only tests, because yellow-blue deficiency represents a safety gap in the present standard (yellow-blue deficiencies are rare but can be acquired); Remove from the AME Guide certain tests not recommended by this research; Require airmen failing any clinical test to pass computer-based precision testing to be cleared without restriction by an AME; Require airmen failing precision testing to complete FSDO signal light/charting testing and/or medical flight testing as under current policy; and Allow airmen passing flight testing in technologically advanced aircraft to be cleared for all aircraft; airmen passing an MFT in electromechanically-instrumented aircraft be cleared only for those aircraft. Airmen clearing this process would have little risk of inability to discriminate colors used in the aircraft or airspace in which they operate. This would continue to be effective in the future, provided aircraft manufacturers continue to comply with the color palette required by § 25. I 322(a)(2) and/or recommended by AC 25-11, "Electronic Flight Deck Displays," and by General Aviation Manufacturers Association Publication #12, "Recommended Practices and Guidelines for an Integrated Cockpit/Flightdeck in a 14 CFR Part 23 Certificated Airplane." Projecting the impact of this policy using data from our research sample, we expect that 94.7 percent of pilots applying for a medical certificate would be cleared without restriction by clinical screening tests; 3 percent would be cleared without restriction following precision testing. The remainder who warrant unrestricted clearance (1 percent who pass job sample tests after failing clinical and precision testing) would be cleared by FSDO signal light/charting testing and/or medical flight testing. Approximately, 1.3 percent of all pilots would be expected to remain restricted following FSDO signal light/charting testing and/or medical flight testing. The research team presented its results to the Federal Air Surgeon. These recommendations are currently under review, and a decision regarding the adoption and implementation will be made prior to our next update to the Board. I will keep the Board informed of the FAA's progress on this recommendation and provide an update by January 31, 2014.

From: NTSB
To: FAA
Date: 12/16/2011
Response: The actions being taken by the FAA, described in its letter, are responsive to this recommendation. We read with interest that the FAA has a workgroup that is considering development of a test battery to screen a pilot’s ability to discriminate airport and approach lighting and signaling systems, as well as a pilot’s ability to discriminate all cockpit colors by function for each aircraft type in which the pilot holds a type certificate. The workgroup is also evaluating and developing a standard test of cockpit colors that could replace aircraft-specific certification. We believe there will be significant issues associated with a system requiring a pilot’s color vision to be evaluated and approved for each type of airport or aircraft for which the pilot is qualified. As a result, we believe the third task assigned to the workgroup, to develop a standard test of cockpit colors, should be the highest priority. After development of this standardized test, the FAA will need to ensure that cockpit display systems for any aircraft are not approved if they require the pilot to possess a greater ability to discriminate colors than someone who passes the standardized test. Pending completion of the FAA’s activities to develop a standard battery of tests to be performed on each applicant for a Class 1 or a Class 2 medical certificate, Safety Recommendation A-04-47 remains classified OPEN—ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: FAA
To: NTSB
Date: 10/26/2011
Response: -From J. Randolph Babbitt, Administrator: The FAA is currently examining the data we collected in response to A-04-46 to identify a CUI-score, the score separating test-takers into various categories, for precision clinical instruments that reliably discriminates color vision deficient subjects who can and cannot discriminate all of tile operational colors and lights. In addition, the federal Air Surgeon has tasked a workgroup to determine: a. Whether a test battery can be developed (0 screen an applicant's ability to discriminate airport and approach lighting and signaling systems using incandescent and LED lights. This would be followed by certification limited by aircraft, such that an Aviation Safety Inspector (ASI) or designee would be required to certify them an applicant could discriminate all cockpit colors by function, for each aircraft type in which the pilot wished to pursue certification; b. What criteria would be necessary for an ASI to determine whether a pilot could adequately discriminate colors deployed in an aircraft for which a color vision deficient pilot wishes to qualify; and c. Whether a standard test of cockpit colors based upon the color palette required by § 25. I322(a)(2) and/or recommended by Advisory Circular 25-11 A, Electronic Flight Deck Displays, could in the future replace aircraft-specific certification. Research will be conducted as necessary to support these tasks. I will keep the Board informed of the FAA's progress on this recoml11endation, and I will provide an update by November 30, 2012.

From: NTSB
To: FAA
Date: 1/12/2005
Response: Pending the results of the FAA's color vision testing research program and appropriate revisions to the color vision testing protocols used for recurrent medical examinations and certifications, Safety Recommendations A-04-46 and -47 are classified OPEN -- ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: FAA
To: NTSB
Date: 9/13/2004
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 9/22/2004 9:38:22 AM MC# 2040571 - From Marion C. Blakey, Administrator: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has reviewed the Federal Express accident and the two other accidents in the Board's database where pilots with valid medical qualifications were involved in accidents where deficient color vision was cited as a contributing cause. On August 5, 1980, a Navy F-4J was lost when a severely color deficient pilot failed to interpret correctly the colored navigation lights of other aircraft in the area, leading to the false impression of an impending collision. On August 29, 1992, the pilot of a Mooney 20F, with a "waiver for partial color-blindness to red and green," was startled by a near miss, and decided to land on the first runway he had in sight. The runway he chose was marked ''closed'' with orange crosses on the soil 50 feet beyond each end. The pilot stated that he had checked the NOTAMs and was aware that the N-S runway was closed. The Board listed his limited ability to detect the orange closed marking as a factor. The FAA recognizes that color vision testing methods and the relevance of color vision deficiencies to aviation safety are controversial, both in the United States and worldwide. The FAA is also aware that efforts are underway in some countries to assess color vision testing methods for airmen and possibly develop a color vision test that may be more appropriate than those presently in use. The FAA accepts several color vision screening tests for airmen and employs practical testing with signal lights to determine whether an airman should be permitted to perform aviation duties without limitations. While the FAA does not believe the above mentioned accidents provide compelling evidence that the current color vision discrimination tests are deficient, because a number of these tests were validated years ago and the demands for color vision perception in aviation are changing, the FAA believes it is appropriate to conduct the research recommended by the Board. The FAA anticipates that the research necessary to identify, develop, and validate a new color vision screen that is in compliance with existing Federal regulations will be a substantial effort. Careful consideration will be given to the added risk associated with any performance differences between pilots with normal color vision and those with varying degrees of color vision deficiency. In pursuing this research, FAA must consider other safety research priorities and the availability of resources. The following is a tentative schedule for pursuing the research initiative: · Conduct an extensive review of the literature related to color vision and performance on color-coded displays, with particular attention to the flight environment. (Estimated time for completion is 6 months.) · Establish a group of subject matter experts from the aviation community to review existing and emerging aviation displays and the flight environment to identify systematically the use of color, to identify instances where color is used as a non-redundant cue, and determine whether pilots who have a color vision deficiency may respond in a manner that may compromise safety. (Estimated time for completion is 1 year.) · Use results of the review and analysis to develop a research study that assesses the ability of color vision deficient individuals to respond to information from cockpit displays and the aviation environment, as well as respond to simulated red-white VASI/PAPI lights under time constricted conditions. (Estimated time for completion is 2.5 years.) · These results, along with those of research currently ongoing in other countries, will provide the necessary information regarding the modification of existing standards and the development of a revised testing protocol, including practical tests. (Estimated time for completion is 2.5 years) I will keep the Board informed of the FAA's progress on these safety recommendations.