If there is one single accessory item that is a must have for the flying community, it is hard to argue being anything besides sunglasses. We are not talking $5.99 truck stop shades, or those killer aviators next to the checkout in CVS. We are talking quality, legitimate sunglasses; the best aviation sunglasses available.
Sunglasses are a nearly-essential item for pilots, and for several very good reasons:
- Even though it may be overcast and dreary below the cloud deck, it will be the brightest day when you break through the clouds.
- Cloud tops are inherently reflective and very bright to the naked eye, causing a lot of strain on the eyes.
- The cockpit of an airplane is full of shiny little objects, and they reflect a lot of light. This is at best, distracting.
- Pilots survey the entire landscape in front and below themselves all the time, and catch reflections from every window pane, body of water, and worst of all, snow.
The fatigue caused by all of these on the naked eye is grueling, which is why sunglasses are a necessity to the pilot’s flight bag. My worst days in the air were always days that I forgot to grab my shades. Not all sunglasses are created equally; you do get what you pay for, and when it comes to flying I suggest not skimping. Take a look at some of the best quality aviation sunglasses available.
The Best Aviation and Pilot Sunglasses
|Ray-Ban® Aviator Sunglasses||• Classic and traditional|
|Ray-Ban® Wayfarer||• Stylish and modern|
• Great for all different occasions
|Serengeti® Aviators||• Photochromic lenses|
• Quality reviews
|Flying Eyes® Kestrel Titanium||• Extremely comfortable in the cockpit|
• Aviation specific
Ray-Ban® Aviator Sunglasses
I could save the best for last, but why? When someone refers to “Aviators” in the context of pilot sunglasses, the first thing that comes to mind are the iconic Ray-Bay® Aviator sunglasses. In my opinion, these are the best pilot sunglasses available. Simple, classic, stylish, lightweight, and available in dozens of combinations of frames and lens tints, these are just the best.
Although not a pilot-specific platform, the original Wayfarers are used so frequently by those in the flying community that you’d forget that piece of information. Timeless style blended some of the finest lenses on the market provide an elegant, yet trendsetting standard for all pilots to uphold. After all, being a pilot is not just a noun; it is a lifestyle.
While not quite the household name that Ray-Ban® is, the Italian manufacturer has some real beauties to offer. For a very reasonable prices, the Serengeti® Aviators offer very attractive features, such as photochromic lenses. These lenses adjust to ever changing environmental factors, allowing your eyes to remain relaxed. These sunglasses have excellent reviews with 4.6 stars out of over two hundred posted reviews, and all of the other models have similar results. Overall, these could easily be the best pilot sunglasses available when you consider price point, technology, and quality.
Flying Eyes® Kestrel Titanium
These are as close to tailor-made sunglasses for pilots as you are going to get. The Flying Eyes® Kestrel Titanium sunglasses are crafted to be very lightweight, yet highly durable with the use of ß-Titanium for the frame, and polycarbonate lenses.
The Kestrels do come in on the high-end of cost, but as the old adage goes, you have to pay to play. If you are looking for a serious pair of sunglasses made for the explicit purpose for use in the cockpit, then take a look at these. Since they are not widely sold on the major retail websites, reviews are a little more difficult to obtain, but there are a couple of independent reviews located here, and here. While not specific to the Kestrel Titanium model, they offer a good representation of what kind of quality you can expect from the brand.
Non-Polarized Lenses and Conclusion
Some pilots may prefer to go the route of non-polarized such as Pilot Ian, lenses for their optics for a variety of reasons. Some pilots do not want to deal with the distortion of digital instrumentation that is common when you fly with polarized lenses.
Polarized lenses do cost a fair amount more than non-polarized, usually in the ballpark of 25% more. In my personal opinion though, there is no comparing the two types when you are in the air, especially over open water (which I have done a lot of); the polarized lenses are worth every penny in that scenario when you are flying into the sun.
At the end of the day, pick a the best aviation sunglasses that work for your flying mission and go tear up the skies.