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"Local study may nail role of color-blindness in some air crashes"

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Local study may nail role of color-blindness in some air crashes

A 2002 plane crash in Florida has resulted in a study of color blindness at
the Federal Aviation Administration's Civil Aerospace Medical Institute in
Oklahoma City. 

The medical institute, known as CAMI, is studying the effect of altitude on
color vision. CAMI is conducting the study at an altitude of 12,400 feet.

The study was requested by the National Transportation Safety Board, which
cited the 2002 incident in which a FedEx plane crashed after its pilots
failed to see the approaching lights. The plane's co-pilot had a degree of
color blindness.

"The pilots walked away from the crash, which is why we know the information
we do and can conduct the study," said Nelda Millburn, engineering research
psychologist for CAMI.

CAMI is conducting the study with Advancia Corp., an Oklahoma City defense
contractor. Advancia's contract for the study, which began in mid-July, will
conclude in October. 

Millburn said the study will include results from 80 participants - all men
ages 18-59 who are in good health. Participants are compensated for their
time, Millburn said.

The study includes only men because 8 to 10 percent of men have some a form
of color vision deficiency, while only half of 1 percent of women do,
Millburn said.

Twenty of the participants will have normal vision, while the other 60 will
have various degrees of color vision deficiency such as mild, moderate or
severe, she said.

Participants take part in the study for 20 hours. On day one, CAMI maps the
participants' color perception at ground level. 

On the second day, participants board air transportation and their
perception is evaluated at 12,400 feet. Millburn said past studies on
mountain climbers have shown higher altitudes have an effect on color

"This is the first study of its kind investigating the effects of aviation
relevant altitudes on color vision, gene expression and human performance
together," CAMI's Dennis Burian, said in a statement.

By the end of this week, 20 participants will have finished the CAMI study,
Millburn said.

Men interested in participating in the study should contact Paige Kuester
with Advancia at 996-3000, ext. 135.


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