CVD: How the CAA seeks blind obedience to rules based on nothing at all

25 July 2015 / by the GAA team / Consultation, Employment, Governance, Medical, Safety

You don’t have a problem with colour vision, do you?

So anything the CAA does to further restrict pilots affected by “colour vision deficiency isn’t your business, right?

You might be wrong.

OK, you can see in full-colour, but an accident of birth passed on by your partner (or further down the line) could see you with a son or grandson whose aviation career is seriously threatened by the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority.

They would be denied a career as a professional pilot in New Zealand, based on restrictions that no aviation medical expert in the world has been able to support with evidence.

Simply because a genetic abnormality they inherited from their mother slightly changed the way they see the world. And their view of the world from above has not yet been shown to be much different from yours, in the context of aviation safety.

The verdict in one of CASA's failed cases

The verdict in one of CASA’s failed cases

Apart, that is, from the evidence assembled in Australia, which 25 years ago relaxed the rules governing pilots affected by colour vision deficiency. After a quarter of a century of data collection, the Australian aviation authority, CASA, found no evidence that any of these pilots had been involved in any aviation incident related to their colour vision deficiency.

Despite this remarkable record – the world’s only detailed information database on CVD in aviation – two individuals employed by CASA last year tried to change the rules and make it harder for CVD-affected pilots to work. If they had succeeded, many safe and highly experienced pilots would have found themselves jobless.

Fortunately, they failed. CASA lost four cases and the two leaders of the campaign resigned.

The culprits were the CASA Director John McCormick and his Principal Medical Officer, Dr Pooshan Navathe. Doctor Navathe may be familiar to New Zealand aviators, because he was once the senior medical officer at the New Zealand CAA before leaving for Australia.

The New Zealand CAA has proposed changes to its policy on CVD-affected pilots which bear similarities to the failed CASA initiatives, and the CAA published its intentions as a General Direction, inviting submissions. It will not be too surprising if the CAA reveals a very low number of submissions, because its consultation procedure was severely flawed (and in the GAA’s submission, we identify the flaws).

We took an interest in this proposed change because it has the potential to inflict harm on New Zealand GA as well as commercial operations. We noted the close connection of Dr Navathe with the NZ CAA, and we also tried to find out more about the current PMO at the NZ CAA, Dr Dougal Watson. The CAA refused to tell us about Dr Watson’s professional aviation qualifications, which we believe to be important since he is clearly involved in this initiative as either the prime mover of it or a significant supporter.

We consider that this General Direction, if approved, will reinforce the long-standing discrimination against New Zealand pilots affected by CVD and rather than introduce more severe rules, the CAA should be harmonising regulations in line with the more relaxed Australian model.

The GAA has presented an opposing argument to the CAA. We think the issue is so important that it should not be decided by the Director and his Principal Medical Officer.

You can find out more about this issue, and why we oppose what the CAA intends to do, by reading The GAA CVD GD Submission