Best Pilot Sunglasses

Top Picks: Best Pilot Sunglasses for 2024 – Aviation Eyewear Guide

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The best pilot sunglasses for you are the ones that do the job reducing cockpit glare, and let’s face it, also look good on you. It’s a given that, when it comes to aviation, your vision isn’t just essential – it’s critical. A clear view of the skies and terrain, combined with protection from the sun, is why it’s pilots buy the best aviation sunglasses that they can afford.  Here’s a selection of nine choses specifically with pilots in mind.

Woman Aviator Sunglasses

Ray-Ban RB3025 Aviator Classic

For the Timeless Pilot Look
The Aviator Classic from Ray-Ban is arguably the most recognizable pilot sunglass design. Offering 100% UV protection and a variety of lens colors to optimize vision in different light conditions, these glasses aren’t just stylish, they’re functional.

Aviator Classic

Ray-Ban RB3025

Ray-Ban Rb3025
crystal clear view

Serengeti Aviator

Serengeti Aviator

Serengeti Aviator

Crystal Clear View at 30,000 Feet
Serengeti is renowned for its photochromic lenses that adjust to changing light conditions. These glasses are especially useful for pilots who experience varying brightness levels during flights.

AO Eyewear Original Pilot

From Moon Landings to Your Local Airfield
The Original Pilot by AO Eyewear boasts a history of being worn by NASA astronauts. These glasses offer a distortion-free view, making them perfect for aviators who demand precision.

AO Eyewear

Original Pilot

Ao Eyewear Original Pilot
Costa del mar

South Point

Costa Del Mar South Point

Costa Del Mar South Point

For Those Water Landings
Costa Del Mar sunglasses aren’t just for fishermen. The South Point model offers polarized lenses, reducing glare especially when flying over water bodies.

Randolph USA Engineering Concorde

Craftsmanship Meets Functionality
Handcrafted in the USA, the Concorde from Randolph Engineering blends style with a bayonet temple design ensuring a snug fit under pilot headsets.

randolph usa

Engineering Concorde

Randolph Engineering Concorde
maui jim

Mavericks

Maui Jim Mavericks

Maui Jim Mavericks

Tropical Vibes Above the Clouds
Maui Jim’s Mavericks provide polarized lenses with a bi-gradient mirror, reducing glare from above and below. These are ideal for pilots frequently navigating sunny conditions.

Persol 649

For the Chic Aviator
Persol’s 649 is an icon in the world of eyewear. Its unique design combined with the Meflecto system ensures a comfortable fit, no matter how long the flight.

chic aviator

Persol 649

Persol 649
smiths optics

Choice Elite

Smith Operator'S Choice Elite

Smith Optics Choice Elite

Military Grade Protection
Smith Optics brings military-grade eye protection to the civilian market with the Choice Elite. With an anti-fog and scratch-resistant coating, these glasses are built for durability.

Oakley OO4108

Sporty Meets Skies
For women pilots looking for a sporty edge, Oakley’s OO4108 offers a sleek design combined with the company’s patented High Definition Optics for unparalleled clarity.

oakley
Oakley Womens Oo4108

Women’s Oo4108

  • Metal frame
  • Plastic lens
  • Non-Polarized
  • UV Protection Coating coating
  • Lens width: 56 millimeters
  • Lens height: 44.7 millimeters

Tackling Cockpit Glare and Eye Fatigue: Why the Right Sunglasses Matter

Best Pilot Sunglasses - Cockpit Glare

Understanding Cockpit Glare

If you’ve spent any amount of time in the cockpit during daylight hours, you’ve likely experienced the pesky phenomenon known as cockpit glare. When sunlight hits the instruments, windows, or other surfaces inside the cockpit, it can create a bright reflection. This not only makes it difficult to see critical data but can also pose a safety risk.

Factors Contributing to Glare:

Angle of the Sun: Glare is particularly problematic during sunrise and sunset when the sun is low on the horizon.
Aircraft Design: Some cockpits, depending on their design and materials, might be more prone to internal reflections.
Environmental Reflections: Flying over bodies of water, snow, or urban areas can amplify the sunlight reflections, adding to the cockpit glare.

Eye Fatigue in Pilots

Extended exposure to glare doesn’t just cause momentary discomfort; it can also lead to eye fatigue. Over time, pilots trying to adjust their vision and squinting to combat the glare can experience symptoms such as:

  • Dry or watery eyes
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Difficulty focusing on near or distant objects
  • Headaches

Why Choosing the Right Sunglasses is Essential

Protection from UV Rays:

Exposure to UV rays at high altitudes can be more intense than on the ground. Over time, this can lead to cataracts or other eye issues. A good pair of sunglasses will offer 100% UV protection.

Polarization:

Polarized lenses reduce the glare caused by light reflected from surfaces like water or snow. This can be especially beneficial for pilots flying over oceans, lakes, or winter terrains.

Lens Tint:

Different lens tints can enhance contrast and clarity under various lighting conditions. For instance, brown or amber tints can improve contrast against blue skies, while gray tints offer a more neutral color perception.

Fit and Comfort:

The best sunglasses in terms of optics would be ineffective if they’re uncomfortable to wear or don’t fit well under a headset. It’s essential for pilots to find a pair that feels good and stays put during flight maneuvers.

Sunglasses for Women: Combining Function with Fashion

Sunglasses For Women

When it comes to aviator sunglasses for women, there’s no compromise between style and functionality. Many brands have mastered the delicate balance of creating frames that are both aesthetically pleasing and practical for the cockpit. Women’s aviator sunglasses often boast slimmer frames, unique color palettes, and sometimes even subtle design tweaks that give a nod to feminine elegance. Moreover, manufacturers recognize the importance of providing the same high-quality lens materials and UV protection in women’s sunglasses. As a result, female pilots don’t just get eyewear that complements their style; they get sunglasses designed to withstand the challenges of aviation while making a fashion statement.

Sunglasses for Men: Robust Design Meets Classic Appeal

Sunglasses For Men

Men’s aviator sunglasses have traditionally been synonymous with a rugged and timeless appeal. Think of the classic images of pilots from the golden age of aviation or Hollywood icons, and you’re likely picturing a pair of these shades. Today’s offerings for men maintain that classic vibe but come with modern twists. Whether it’s a bolder frame, innovative lens technology, or unique finishes and tints, there’s something for every man’s taste. Like their female counterparts, men aren’t left behind when it comes to the protective features of these sunglasses. Durable frames, high-quality lenses with glare reduction, and essential UV protection ensure that male pilots are both stylish and shielded in the skies.

What the FAA recommends that pilots wear

The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) offers guidelines regarding the use of sunglasses for pilots. While there isn’t a strict regulation mandating the type of sunglasses pilots should wear, the FAA does provide recommendations to ensure both safety and optimal performance when flying. Here are some key points from the FAA’s suggestions:

  1. Lenses: The FAA recommends lenses that are neutral gray and transmit colors accurately. These lenses do not interfere with the recognition of signals or colored objects, especially important when identifying runway lights or aircraft position lights.
  2. Polarization: Polarized lenses can interfere with the visibility of instruments that have anti-glare filters and can also reduce or eliminate the visibility of anti-collision strobe lights on other aircraft. Thus, while polarized sunglasses might be beneficial for reducing glare from large bodies of water or other horizontal surfaces, they may not always be the best choice for pilots.
  3. Transmission: Sunglasses should allow enough visible light transmission. The FAA suggests a range of 15% to 30% light reduction for flying during the day. For hazy or overcast conditions, lenses that block only 30% of visible light might be more appropriate.
  4. Ultraviolet (UV) Protection: Prolonged exposure to UV radiation can be harmful. Sunglasses that block 99-100% of UVA and UVB rays are recommended to protect pilots’ eyes, especially considering the increased UV exposure at higher altitudes.
  5. Frame Considerations: The frame of the sunglasses should not obstruct a pilot’s field of vision. Thin temple pieces or frames are preferred, especially to avoid interference with the seal of headsets or oxygen masks.
  6. Photochromic Lenses: These lenses automatically adjust their level of darkness based on the amount of UV light they’re exposed to. While they can be convenient, pilots need to be aware that the windshields of some aircraft can block UV light, preventing these lenses from functioning optimally.
  7. Backup Pair: It’s a good practice to carry a spare pair of glasses, especially for those who require prescription lenses. If sunglasses become damaged or lost, having a backup ensures that vision isn’t compromised.

While the FAA provides guidelines and recommendations for pilot sunglasses, it’s crucial for individual pilots to select eyewear that suits their specific needs and conditions in which they usually fly. Ensuring clarity, comfort, and protection should be the guiding principles when choosing sunglasses for aviation.

The Evolution of the Classic Aviator Design

The traditional aviator silhouette, with its teardrop-shaped lenses, has remained popular for decades. However, as technology has evolved, so has the aviator design. Modern aviator sunglasses offer enhanced features, including blue light protection, and come in various materials, from metal frames to polycarbonate ones.

Ray-Ban: The Pioneer of Aviator Sunglasses?

Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses are one of the most iconic and recognized eyewear globally. Launched in the 1930s, these sunglasses were designed explicitly for military pilots. Ray-Ban has maintained its classic style while incorporating modern lens technologies for optimal protection against UV rays.

Oakley vs. Randolph: Which One Suits Pilots Better?

Both Oakley and Randolph are big names in the aviator sunglasses market. While Oakley sunglasses offer a contemporary twist to the classic aviator shape, Randolph aviator sunglasses stick to the original aviator sunglasses’ traditional design. Both brands provide UV protection, but the choice often boils down to personal style preference.

Face Shape Matters: Finding Your Perfect Fit

Not all sunglasses suit every face shape. For instance, oversized aviator shades might overwhelm a smaller face, while square sunglasses could complement broader face structures. It’s essential to try different styles to find the pair of pilot sunglasses that best suits your features.

American Optical Original Pilot Sunglasses: Still Relevant?

Yes, the American Optical Original Pilot Sunglasses have a rich history and were even worn by astronauts during the Apollo mission. These sunglasses feature a classic aviator design with modern enhancements, making them both stylish and functional.

Modern Innovations: Serengeti Velocity Sunglasses and Beyond

Brands like Serengeti are pushing the envelope when it comes to aviator eyewear. The Serengeti Velocity Sunglasses, for example, come with photochromic lenses that adjust to varying light conditions, providing pilots with optimum vision, regardless of the environment.

Sunglasses for All Sorts: Men, Women, and Private Pilots

Whether you’re a male or female pilot, or even a private pilot, there’s a pair of aviator sunglasses out there for you. From classic styles to contemporary designs, brands are catering to pilots of all sorts, ensuring everyone finds their perfect eyewear match.

The Enduring Appeal of “Top Gun” Aviator Sunglasses

The 1986 blockbuster film “Top Gun” wasn’t just a cinematic masterpiece for its action-packed sequences and compelling narrative; it was also a trendsetter in the world of fashion. Enter the “Top Gun” aviator sunglasses: an accessory that became an instant icon and skyrocketed in popularity post-release. But what exactly gives these shades their lasting appeal?  What makes them in the eyes of many the best aviator sunglasses?

The “Top Gun” aviators represent an effortless blend of rugged masculinity, cool demeanor, and an air of mystery, all encapsulated in a single accessory. Tom Cruise’s character, Maverick, donned a pair of classic aviator sunglasses, enhancing the persona of the fearless, confident, and somewhat rebellious fighter pilot. This image struck a chord with audiences worldwide. Suddenly, aviator sunglasses weren’t just practical eyewear for pilots; they were a fashion statement.

F/A-18 Hornet
F/A-18 Hornet

The design of these sunglasses – with their large, dark, slightly convex lenses and thin metal frame – was both functional and stylish. They shielded pilots’ eyes from the sun, reducing glare and offering a broad field of vision, while simultaneously oozing a sense of danger and allure. The teardrop shape, in particular, became synonymous with the aviator style.

Fast forward to today, and the “Top Gun” aviator sunglasses remain as popular as ever. Their timeless design has managed to transcend generations, resonating with both fans of the classic film and newcomers who appreciate their blend of style and functionality. With the sequel, “Top Gun: Maverick,” released years after the original, a new generation has been introduced to the iconic eyewear, ensuring that the legacy of the “Top Gun” aviators will endure for years to come.

Shaded Skies: A Brief History of Sunglasses for Aviators

When we think of aviators and their sunglasses, a signature style comes to mind: those large, teardrop-shaped lenses and thin metal frames. But how did this iconic look come to be? Let’s take a flight back in time to trace the history of aviator sunglasses and discover some of the famous faces behind the shades.

The Birth of Aviator Sunglasses

In the early 1930s, pilots needed a solution for the intense and often harmful glare they faced at higher altitudes. Regular glasses weren’t cutting it, and the intense sunlight could be a genuine hindrance. Enter Bausch & Lomb, the company commissioned by the U.S. Air Force to develop glasses that would counteract this issue. The result was the original aviator sunglasses, characterized by their large area of coverage, protecting eyes from light coming in from many angles, and their dark, greenish tint to cut down on glare without interfering with visibility.

From Functional to Fashionable

What started as a purely functional tool for pilots soon became a fashion statement. As commercial air travel grew in popularity in the mid-20th century, the mystique of the pilot – calm, cool, and collected – became a symbol of adventure and allure. Aviator sunglasses transitioned from the cockpit to the streets.

Legendary Aviators Behind the Shades

Several renowned aviators were often photographed donning these iconic shades, further solidifying their status in both the world of aviation and fashion.

Amelia Earhart:

While she’s best known for her mysterious disappearance, Amelia Earhart was an icon in many ways. Often photographed with her aviator sunglasses, she represented a blend of style, grace, and unbridled courage.

General Douglas MacArthur:

Not strictly an aviator, but a military legend nonetheless, General MacArthur famously landed on the beaches of the Philippines during World War II wearing his signature aviator shades. Photographs of this moment are often cited as one of the reasons for the widespread popularity of these glasses beyond the aviation community.

Howard Hughes:

The millionaire aviator, filmmaker, and business tycoon was occasionally snapped wearing aviator sunglasses. Given his profound impact on the aviation industry, his endorsement, even just visually, carried weight.

Chuck Yeager:

The first person to break the sound barrier in level flight, Chuck Yeager, was sometimes seen with aviator sunglasses, further associating the style with cutting-edge aeronautical achievement.

Key Takeaways:

  • Aviator sunglasses provide crucial eye protection for pilots, reducing glare and shielding against harmful UV rays.
  • Brands like Ray-Ban and American Optical have solidified the aviator sunglasses’ legacy in aviation history.
  • UV protection is essential, especially at high altitudes where UV exposure is intensified.
  • Face shape plays a crucial role in choosing the right sunglasses.
  • Modern brands are innovating, with features like photochromic lenses offering pilots enhanced vision in varying light conditions.

Stay stylish, stay protected, and look cool in the cockpit.  Oh, and they’re good for your eyes too!

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