When it comes to choosing the best sunglasses for pilots a good place to start is to look at the sunglasses military pilots wear. In the image above we see a Warthog pilot and he is wearing a pair of Randolph Engineering U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) issue military aviator sunglasses.
The Best Sunglasses for PilotsAs a pilot myself I have purchased, worn and used a variety of different sunglasses for pilots. Among them have been the following pilot sunglasses:
- AO Eyewear Original Pilot Sunglasses
- AO Eyewear General Sunglasses
- Randolph Engineering Aviator Sunglasses
- Scheyden C-130 Aviator Sunglasses
- Serengeti 5222 Large Aviator Sunglasses
- Serengeti 6826 Medium Aviator Sunglasses
What To Consider When Choosing A Pair Of Aviator SunglassesChoosing a pair of sunglasses for pilots should not be as simple as looking at the style and price. Pilots operate aircraft at very high altitudes and under a variety of conditions. As a result the choice in pilot sunglasses is important. Not all pilot sunglasses are created equal. For example there are several styles of temples available for pilots in some models.
- Bayonet temples - these are those straight arms that go straight back and hug the side of your head. These are great if you wear any headgear like headsets or helmets;
- Skull (also known as Wire Spatula) temples - these are the most common type of temple that you see on normal glasses. They are fine if you don't wear a helmet or use a headset;
- Cable temples - these are very common in shooting glasses. The temple go back, over the ear, down the back of the ear and then curl forward under the ear. These are great if you are operating in an environment where your head is moving a lot.
Standards For Pilot Sunglasses
Mil-S-25948J Aviator SunglassesThe U.S. DoD has very specific requirements for the aviator sunglasses they issue to pilots called Mil-S-25948J. Those specifications were published on 17 January 1984. Sunglasses that meet or exceed those specifications are designated as HGU-4/P sunglasses. The specifications detail the materials to be used for the frame, nose pads, temple tips, temple screws, glass for the lenses and the carrying case. In addition, Mil-S-15948J calls for corrosion resistance of the frame, adhesion of the frame finish, heat resistance to blistering and discoloration, as well as the optical performance of the finished hardened lenses. Sunglasses that meet these standards would no doubt be a good choice of sunglasses for pilots. You can find the exact same sunglasses that the U.S. DoD issues to military pilots on our website at Military Aviator Sunglasses.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Sunglasses StandardsTo protect a pilot’s eyes the FAA recommends a quality pair of sunglasses with the following attributes:
- 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.