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 Pilots
As 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
Of course there are a lot of other choices in the market today; however, I have personally used each and every one of these and can tell you they all work very well. You will notice that they each have their own personal style which also plays a role in which pair you ultimately rely upon.
What To Consider When Choosing A Pair Of Aviator Sunglasses
Choosing 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 Sunglasses
The 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 Standards
To 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.
In fact, the FAA has issued a Pilot Safety Brochure titled "Sunglasses for Pilots: Beyond the Image
". This brochure outlines the FAA's position on the best sunglasses for pilots to protect their most important sensory asset - their eyes.
Why Sunglasses Are Important For Pilots
Unlike most people, pilots are exposed to bright sunlight almost on a daily basis. In addition, because pilots are flying aircraft at higher altitudes their eyes receive more ultraviolet radiation than most people. For example, if a pilot’s eyes are not properly protected from the effects of harsh sunlight it can create eye fatigue and damage ocular tissue from exposure to harmful solar radiation.
Is Image Important As Well?
Well, for some people it certainly is. Here are a few of the people who wear Randolph Aviator sunglasses both on and off screen: Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, and of course Jon Hamm as Don Draper in "Mad Men".
In fact, you can find any number of film and tv actors who wear Randolph Aviator sunglasses as part of their image in the films that they make. Must be they are also pilot wannabes? But image isn't everything. For pilots proper eye protection is essential to the safe operation of the aircraft and protecting their most valuable sensory asset - their eyes!
Many Different Styles
But there are a lot of different choices within the best sunglasses for pilots offerings. For example you might prefer the tear drop shape similar to the Ray-Bans made famous by Gen. MacArthur when he landed back in the Philippines during WWII. Randolph offers the Concorde sunglasses
with that tear drop shape, but with better frames and superior lenses. Or perhaps the more square shape of lenses is your preference, like the Randolph Intruder sunglasses
The Best Sunglasses For Pilots?
But when it comes to the very best sunglasses for pilots the Randolph Engineering Aviator sunglasses
are preferred by pilots 10 to 1 over any other sunglasses for pilots. The Randolph Aviators are the same sunglasses the DOD provides to U.S. military pilots, and best of all they are made right here in the USA! Every pair of Randolph Aviator sunglasses
meets the stringent requirements set forth above in "What The FAA Recommends" and - in some cases - exceeds their requirements. In addition the frames have a beautiful finish, the construction is outstanding and the distortion free lenses provide incredible visual acuity. Please share "Best Sunglasses For Pilots" with your friends using the buttons below. Thanks!
Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7+