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October 11th 2022
8 min read

Everything You Need To Know About Pilot’s Sunglasses

Everything You Need To Know About Pilot’s Sunglasses

Sunglasses are an essential piece of kit for pilots, keeping their eyes protected during flights and improving vision to enhance safety in the cockpit. 

From reducing the glare of bright sunlight to decreasing eye tiredness, the pilot’s sunglasses protect the most important sense; sight. 

Follow our guide on everything you need to know about pilot’s sunglasses as we look at the rules and regulations surrounding the correct lenses to choose as well as the history behind their creation.

Table of Contents

  1. What sunglasses do pilots wear?
  2. Do pilots wear polarised or non-polarised sunglasses?
  3. What lenses do pilots use?
  4. What frames should you choose for pilot sunglasses?
  5. Rules on prescription sunglasses
  6. What is the history of pilot sunglasses?
  7. Aviation sunglasses in popular culture
  8. Recommended pilot sunglasses

What sunglasses do pilots wear?

Pilots must wear sunglasses that adhere to certain rules and regulations. These regulations are in place to protect the pilot’s eyes and ensure they are safe for use when flying aeroplanes at high altitudes.

Regulations centre around the lens colour, whether polarised or non-polarised and the shape and size of the frames.  

With various brands available, including Serengeti and Randolph Pilot’s sunglasses, check they adhere to guidelines before purchasing a new pair.

Do pilots wear polarised or non-polarised sunglasses?

Polarised lenses work by reducing the amount of light passing through the lens. This is done by a chemical film either applied to or incorporated within the lens. This filter absorbs the incoming horizontal light but allows vertical light to pass through. What we normally refer to as ‘glare’ is usually horizontal light. 

However, polarised lenses can distort cloud appearance, reduce ground reflection and cause distortion patterns from laminated cockpit windshields. For this reason, the use of polarised lenses is discouraged for pilots. 

What lenses do pilots use?

Pilot lenses must adhere to certain regulations for maximum efficiency, laid out by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Pilot sunglasses’ lenses should be neutral in colour, either grey or brown. The tint of the lenses should be no darker than 80% absorption for optimum vision, and a graduated tint - where the darkest point is at the top, gradually getting lighter towards the bottom - is recommended.

Photochromic lenses darken when exposed to high light levels, usually ultraviolet (UV) and return lighter when away from the light. These lenses are made up of silver halide molecules and chloride, which react to UV rays, changing their structure to darken and absorb light. 

Cockpit windshields are usually designed to block UV light, so photochromic lenses won’t work as well in this environment and are therefore not recommended. 

What frames should you choose for pilot sunglasses?

All pilot sunglasses' frames should fit well and be comfortable for sustained wear on long flights. They must be large enough to offer sufficient protection from sunlight and minimise any effects on peripheral vision. 

Frames must have a reasonably thin front and sides which is why pilot’s sunglasses frames are usually made from metal. That being said, the frames must also be strong enough to be placed under oxygen masks in case of emergency on commercial flights. 

Rules on prescription sunglasses for pilots

Pilots who require a prescription must have at least one clear pair of prescription lenses. 

Their second pair can be prescription sunglasses unless the pilot will be flying at night when they must have two pairs of glasses without any tint. 

Pilots are prohibited from wearing plano sunglasses (sunglasses without prescription lenses) over the top of their prescription glasses. 

Three pairs of pilot sunglasses

What is the history of pilot sunglasses?

Pilot’s sunglasses - aviators - were first developed by Bausch and Lomb in 1936. The frame - now known as the aviator style - was created for military pilots to replace bulky flying goggles. 

In 1929, John A. Macready, a US Army Air Corps Colonel, set out to create a product that would reduce distraction caused by brightness and avoid the fogginess that often came with pilot goggles. 

Working with Bausch and Lomb, they created sunglasses with plastic frames and green lenses to reduce glare without disrupting vision. The sunglasses were redesigned in 1939 to have a metal frame and were officially named Ray-Ban Aviators.

Aviators offered a sleeker option that was more comfortable and still offered good eye protection from bright rays, making them one of the first pairs of popularised sunglasses. 

Aviation sunglasses in popular culture

Since the Second World War, the aviator style has become increasingly popular, leaking into popular culture with many celebrities adopting the look. 

Because of this shift, pilot’s sunglasses became more associated with style than aviation as stars like Marlon Brando donned the glasses in the 1950s, making them synonymous with rebellious style. Paul McCartney later made them popular with hippie style and rock stars, opting for colour variations on the lenses. 

Most recently, Tom Cruise has become majorly associated with aviator sunglasses thanks to the hit film Top Gun, causing sales of the style to skyrocket.

Flightstore offers the largest collection of pilot sunglasses in the UK, with styles specially designed for comfort, performance, and style. 

Available in popular designs such as aviator sunglasses, they are designed with features that efficiently protect your eyesight in difficult light conditions. 

Randolph pilot sunglasses

Randolph pilot sunglasses are designed to be long-lasting, exceeding the high standards set by the American Military. 

Selection of Randolph Pilot Sunglasses

They are available in various colours and in three distinct and timeless styles; Randolph aviators, Randolph sport, and Randolph classic. Offering 100% UVA and UVB protection and an anti-reflective coating, they are pivotal for an enjoyable flying experience.

Serengeti pilot sunglasses

Serengeti pilot sunglasses are designed with the best lenses and frames that are stylish, durable, and built to last a long time. 

With non-polarised lens options, Serengeti sunglasses allow pilots enhanced vision, reducing eye fatigue and improving overall eye health. 

Find the right aviation sunglasses

Since their creation, pilot sunglasses have become a timeless classic, blending style and practicality for use in the air. Protecting your eyes and reducing eye fatigue, the right pair of sunglasses will enhance your flying experience, especially for long-distance hauls. 

Whether you’re a new starter or a seasoned professional, explore our full collection of pilot sunglasses from Flightstore and find the right fit for you.


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