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Buying guide

The Best Aviation Sunglasses for Pilots (2019)

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Sunglasses help safeguard a pilot’s most important sensory asset – vision. A quality pair of sunglasses is essential in the cockpit environment to optimize visual performance.

Introduction

Sunglasses reduce the effects of harsh sunlight, decrease eye fatigue, and protect ocular tissues from exposure to harmful solar radiation. Additionally, they protect the pilot’s eyes from impact with objects (for example flying debris from a bird strike, sudden decompression, or aerobatic maneuvers). Sunglasses can also aid the dark adaptation process, which is delayed by prolonged exposure to bright sunlight.

It is clear sunglasses are important in the cockpit. Therefore, we have written this guide to help you make an informed decision when it comes to choosing the right sunglasses as a pilot.

What to look for

Sunglasses are such an important part of safety in the air that the FAA has published some recommendations for buying sunglasses:

  • Sunglasses with lenses that incorporate 100% ultraviolet protection made of glass, plastic or polycarbonate materials. Glass and plastic lenses have superior optical qualities, while polycarbonate lenses are lighter and more impact resistant;
  • The tint chosen should be limited to those that optimize visual performance while minimizing color distortion. The best choice would be a neutral grey tint with 15-30% light transmittance;
  • Polarized sunglasses are not recommended because they may interfere with glass cockpit displays. In addition, because they eliminate glare off of shiny objects they may reduce a pilot’s ability to spot other aircraft;
  • Careful consideration when choosing appropriate sunglasses should be taken to make sure they can easily slip on and off under headsets, helmets and other headgear;
  • Photocromic glass lenses are not recommended because of the extended time it takes for them to remove the darkening when exposure to bright sunlight is removed. This is particularly a problem when flying into clouds or nightfall.

You can read more about these recommendations in the FAA brochure: Sunglasses for pilots: Beyond the image.

Polarized vs non-polarized

When it comes to sunglasses for flying, there's something important to keep in mind, which has to do with polarization. These polarized sunglasses can filter out glare, making them very popular with sportsmen who ski or do watersports, but.. as you can read in the FAA recommendations above, they are no good to pilots. Here's why:

The reason they are so popular is the exact reason why they are not good for us pilots: They diminish glare by blocking out horizontal light, while allowing in vertical light. This can cause issues inside as well as outside the cockpit.

First of all, if you have a glass cockpit or GPS displays, these screens usually already have an anti-glare filter. Wearing polarized sunglasses will reduce your ability to clearly read these instruments and will interfere with your ability to read LCD screens, who emit polarized light.

Secondly, polarized sunglasses can also cause trouble when looking outside the cockpit. Pilots' ability to spot other traffic is usually improved when there is some sort of sun glare reflecting from other aircraft by the sun.

All in all, polarized sunglasses are great for everything, besides flying. We, therefore, recommend you to buy non-polarized sunglasses for use inside the cockpit and have also only listed non-polarized sunglasses below.

(Source: Randolph USA)

Polarized vs non-polarized sunglasses for pilots

Best Sunglasses for Pilots

Ray-Ban RB3025 Aviator Metal Sunglasses

The most iconic shape in the Ray-Ban portfolio featuring a teardrop shape, crystal lenses and metal frame. The Aviator was originally created for pilots in 1937 to shield their eyes from high altitudes glare. Now their iconic frames are a staple in your wardrobe.

$153.00

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Ray-Ban RB3025 Aviator Metal Sunglasses
Last update: 07 June 2019

Serengeti Summit Drivers Sunglasses (Sport Classic)

The Serengeti Drivers lens is designed specifically designed for driving or flying. The drivers lens is a photochromic, single-gradient lens, darker at the top to block the sun's glare while lighter at the bottom to provide a clear view of instrument panel. The driver is also NOT polarized. Polarized lenses can make it harder (even impossible) to read LCD screen based instruments and often interfere with the view through polycarbonate or safety glass windshields such as those found in aircraft....

$54.7765.99

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Serengeti Summit Drivers Sunglasses (Sport Classic)
Last update: 07 June 2019

Serengeti Velocity Sunglasses

Velocity's lightweight titanium frame is built for speed, yet balances like a feather on the bridge of your nose. All Serengeti lenses offer the latest in photochromic technology, which constantly lightens and darkens throughout the day to ensure you see every detail.

$199.99

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Serengeti Velocity Sunglasses
Last update: 07 June 2019

Ray-Ban Wayfarer RB2140 Square Sunglasses

The Wayfarer was introduced in 1952 and has been considered a Ray-Ban icon ever since. This style has been a favorite of iconic musicians and celebrities throughout the decades. The Original Wayfarer features an acetate squared frame with a tilted lens.

$153.00

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Ray-Ban Wayfarer RB2140 Square Sunglasses
Last update: 07 June 2019

Randolph Concorde Aviator Sunglasses 61 mm

Named after the Concorde supersonic passenger airliner, which entered service in 1976 (four years after Randolph Engineering was founded), the Concorde is built to meet the same military standards as our classic Aviator. Featuring the iconic large teardrop shape worn by pilots during World War II, this style is loved for its fashion as well as for its sun protection.

$239.00

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Randolph Concorde Aviator Sunglasses 61 mm
Last update: 07 June 2019

Randolph Aviator Sunglasses, 55 mm

Originally built for the U.S. Military (Mil-S-25948), our flagship Aviator surpasses rigid military-spec standards. Standard issue since 1982, these are battle tested and suitable for the most rigorous and demanding use. Worn by pilots, taste-makers, and those who demand the best.

$219.00

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Randolph Aviator Sunglasses, 55 mm
Last update: 07 June 2019

Randolph Sportsman Aviator

Designed for the outdoor enthusiast, the Sportsman is an essential piece of equipment to bring on your adventures. Built to meet the same military standards as our classic Aviator, this extremely durable frame features our largest lenses, a sports sweat bar, and a timeless and distinguished style.

$299.00

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Randolph Sportsman Aviator
Last update: 07 June 2019

Conclusion

If you want the best sunglasses for flying, we recommend going for the Randolph Engineering sunglasses. These sunglasses are US-built and meet every single requirement by the FAA, often even exceeding them. The fact that they are provided to the pilots of the US Air Force should be enough proof these sunglasses are made for a cockpit environment.

Last update: April 02, 2019

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