Picking the best sunglasses for pilots can be tedious but like shopping for a mattress or shoes you are going to spend a lot of time with them so choose wisely or you will be sorry in the long run.
What you should know before you buy:
The main purposes of sunglasses are to reduce glare, which in turn will reduce eye fatigue and improve your vision
The amount of light passing through the lens is called the transmittance. For pilots the optimal transmittance is between 16%-20% any darker and there will be a reduction visual acuity.
A lens with no tint is a neutral filter it will reduce bright light while preserving true colors.
A Neutral gray filter is the best tint for pilots, it will reduce glare but preserve the natural colors, brown is another favorite of pilots for the same reason.
Green filters increase contrast over vegetation so if you are in and out of grass strips or are a ag-pilot these might be a good option.
Yellow lenses (driving glasses) increase contrast in haze conditions so if you are a high flyer i.e. Airline or in snowy conditions give these a go.
Polarized lenses are not recommended, they create problems seeing LCD screens in the cockpit and can also cause interference with the windscreen. One exception for this is float pilots, polarized lenses are great on water for reducing glare.
A lot of pilots like gradient lenses, easy to see the instruments but still dark for looking outside.
Most sunglasses today are 100% UV protection, if they are not don’t consider it. UV radiation increases by 5% every 1000ft so even at a modest 6000ft there is 30% more radiation!
Most lenses come in either glass or CR39. Glass lenses are scratch resistant but are heavy and shatters easy. CR 39 is lightweight and impact resistant but scratch easy.
Cool, off to the shops:
In general the quality of the lens between a $100 and a $400 pair of sunglasses is nil, you are only paying for that designer name. In fact a lot of sunglasses coming from the fashion houses have very poor lenses, great for posing not so good if you are trying to land a plane at a 150 knots into the sun.
Thin small arms with temple fittings are a better fit under your headset and will be more comfortable for longer flights. Last but not least make sure they are comfortable and don’t keep on sliding forward.
Have a look at these pilot recommended sunglasses and remember when all is done make sure you look like a rock star when you wear them.
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