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7 Best Pilot Sunglasses | Find the Right Sunglasses for Flying




In this article I’m going to share the best pilot sunglasses you can buy to truly enjoy flying.

Every pilot needs a great pair of sunglasses.

In fact, they’re one of the most critical pieces of equipment a pilot owns.

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Pilots always have to keep their heads on a swivel, and squinting is not an option. 

Pilot sunglasses are different from everyone else’s sunglasses. You don’t have to wear Aviator-style shades—unless you want to.

But there are specific factors you’ll need to look for when shopping for the best pair of sunglasses for flying. In this article we’ll explore factors you should consider when picking out your sunglasses and share some of the best sunglasses for pilots available today.

Best Sunglasses for Pilots

Before we jump into the specifics of what to look for in sunglasses, here are the 7 best sunglasses for pilots.

The Importance of Sunglasses

The best aviation sunglasses are more than a convenience—they’re safety equipment.

A pilot cannot see and avoid traffic if they are squinting and unable to look in a particular direction.

All it takes is one late afternoon landing on Runway 27 to convince you that great sunglasses should be on every pilot’s Minimum Equipment List. 

Pilot sunglasses for reading

Say No to Polarized

Polarized glasses are very popular with many folks for their ability to control glare. Boaters and beach bums love this because it helps them see through clear water or stop the eye strain caused by reflections.

Unfortunately, polarized sunglasses aren’t the right choice for us pilots. 

Polarized glasses can cause unpredictable, annoying, and even dangerous effects for pilots. Remember, the Aviator-style of glasses does not mean that they are not polarized—many brands sell the style with polarized lenses.

When you’re shopping for aviation sunglasses always check to make sure they are non-polarized.

Reduced Glare

Polarized glasses work by limiting lightwaves’ direction through the lenses.

You can experiment with the effect by tilting your head in different directions when wearing polarized glasses. You’ll see light waves from different directions and block out others as you rotate the lenses.

The problem with this is the simple fact that they make random objects invisible.

What if the light they block came from the sunlight glinting off the wings of another plane?

Normally, that flash of light would draw your attention, and you’d see the traffic. Unfortunately, if you’re wearing polarized glasses, you might not get that initial clue.

Pilot wearing sunglasses

Blacked Out LCDs

Polarized glasses also have the annoying tendency to make LCD and electronic displays impossible to read. Often these screens have their own polarized filter and can cancel when using two polarized lenses.

There’s also the fact that pilots often look at their displays from different angles. If a display is telling you something, you want to see it no matter which way your glasses are pointing.

Our eyes roam around as we scan the cockpit, and it shouldn’t matter which way our sunglasses are oriented. 

Windscreen and Glass Anomalies

Finally, polarized glasses often create colored and dark patches and distortions through treated glass and plexiglass laminates- like those used in aircraft windows.

These dark patches are mostly annoying, but anything that limits a pilot’s vision out of the cockpit is bad news. 

So in summary, the best sunglasses for pilots are ones that are non-polarized.

Things to Look For — Pilot Sunglasses

Aviators and Other Styles

The Ray-Ban Aviator was designed back in the 1930s to help pilots battle eye fatigue.

That’s right; there’s more to it than just a name. The teardrop design and metal frames were purpose-built to reduce glare at high altitudes. Tom Cruise and the Aviator’s fashionability came much later.

You don’t have to wear Aviator-style glasses, but take a few clues from the design. For one, these glasses have large lenses that leave few (if any) gaps. You want the glasses to work no matter what angle the sun is coming at you. Wraps or Wayfarers are other good options for pilots. 

This pilot is wearing sunglasses while flying an aircraft.

Lens Types

 Sunglasses come in a dizzying array of colors and lens options.

Generally, the best lenses are neutral grey and do not cause any color distortions. In addition, the best darkness allows between 15 and 30 percent of the light to come through.

Photochromatic lenses that darken automatically are not recommended since they take too long to react when the sunlight gets more intense. 

Lens Quality

All aviation sunglasses you consider should block 100 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet light—this is key to protecting a pilot’s eyesight over the long term. 

The best lenses are those made of glass by reputable manufacturers.

These tend to have the best clarity and superior optical qualities.

Polycarbonate lenses are more impact resistant and lighter weight, and the high-end brands make some excellent choices.  

Frame Design

Generally, there aren’t any requirements for the frames other than those that are sturdy and can take daily use. However, the one exception is the earpieces, which must work comfortably underneath a pilot’s headset. 

Sunglasses with very wide earpieces may create gaps in the headset seal, letting in more noise than necessary. And large earpieces can also get pressed into the pilot’s head, causing uncomfortable pressure or even pain after a few hours of flying.

The pilot should be able to put on and remove the glasses quickly and easily, even when wearing a headset.

Sunglasses on a table

Five Great Pairs of Pilot Sunglasses

Ray-Ban Aviator – The Best Aviator Sunglasses

The original—need we say more? Not everyone can wear them as well as Maverick, but we can all try.

Ray-Ban Classic Aviator Non-Polarized
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02/18/2024 04:08 pm GMT

Randolph Engineering Aviator

Randolph’s lenses are mineral glass and non-polarized. They block 100 percent of UVA and UVB light, along with BlueWave Light Blocking technology.

They’re hand-built in the US and feature bayonet-style temples that work well under headsets. The lenses also have an anti-reflective coating to reduce eye strain.

If you’re worried about the fashion component, both GQ and Men’s Journal have ranked them as the best aviator sunglasses out there.

Plus the bayonet temples make them more comfortable under a headset so they’re great sunglasses for flying.

Randolph USA | Matte Chrome Classic Aviator Sunglasses (Non-Polarized)
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02/18/2024 07:03 pm GMT

Serengeti Velocity

The lenses are made of mineral glass and are not polarized. The frames are made out of robust titanium. 

The Velocity is a wrap-style design, but the same excellent Serengeti lenses are also available in an Aviator style.

Serengeti Velocity Sunglasses (Non-Polarized)
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AO Original Pilot Sunglasses

Overall these are excellent non polarized sunglasses for pilots.

AO Original Pilot Sunglasses

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02/19/2024 12:34 am GMT

Ray-Ban Predator (Non-Polarized)

So instead, opt for a tighter wrap like these Predators. The plastic frames are narrow and fit well with most headsets. The lenses are plastic but well designed, and they offer a fair amount of coverage for light coming in at funny angles.

Ray-Ban PREDATOR 2 Sunglasses For Men For Women (Non-Polarized)
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02/18/2024 04:23 pm GMT

Cheap Pilot Sunglasses

Now, I realize, most of the sunglasses above are rather expensive. Many coming in at $150 or more. And that’s simply out of the price range for many new student pilots just getting started.

So I’ve put together a list of cheap pilot sunglasses that will work. However, I would high recommend eventually upgrading your flying eyewear. Your eyes are critical to flying and you don’t want to risk long term damage.

So when your budget eventually allows, I’d recommend a high quality pair that will protect your eyes and be more comfortable under your headset.

  1. Pro Acme Classic Aviator Sunglasses
    $39.99 $21.99
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    02/19/2024 12:08 am GMT
  2. JULI Sports Sunglasses
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    02/19/2024 12:13 am GMT
  3. Skechers Men's Se6016 Aviator Sunglasses
    $24.00 $15.98
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    02/19/2024 12:24 am GMT

Based on your experience, what have been the best pilot sunglasses you’ve used?

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