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Glasses for pilots – perfect vision even above the clouds

Whether professional or amateur, pilots need glasses that allow them to see clearly, especially in extreme lighting and weather conditions.

16 October 2020
  • Spectacles for pilots – perfect vision even above the clouds

Glasses for pilots have a demanding job: more so than in almost any other application, they have to perfectly optimize the wearer's vision and compensate for extreme visibility conditions. For sailing, amateur pilots, hang-gliding, paragliding and aerospace professionals: BETTER VISION with the perfect glasses for pilots.

Pilots require glasses that always guarantee good vision, both at distance and close range. This is no easy task, as visibility and lighting conditions above the clouds are extreme, and can change at a moment’s notice. Pilots need to be able to detect objects such as towers and air traffic properly, while at the same time seeing details such as readings on cockpit instruments perfectly and perceiving colors accurately in order to gain a clear and correct understanding of all signals.

Ideal glasses for pilots: tinted lenses from ZEISS

In sun protection lenses, ZEISS has developed special technology for these exacting requirements that guarantee perfect vision for all altitudes and lighting conditions; for amateur and professional pilots alike. ZEISS sun protection lenses have 100 percent UV protection, reduce inconvenient glare and also improve contrast vision in extreme light conditions. This is not only convenient – it also contributes enormously to greater safety.

One option that is particularly suitable for pilots is the variant of ZEISS sun protection lenses with an aesthetically appealing, red-brown tint. These get the highest possible color contrast out of the lens at medium ambient brightness – ideal for hazy light conditions.

For those who prefer darker tints, we recommend the ZEISS variant with an 80% tint in aesthetic brown – ideal for the medium-strength sunlight of a typical summer. However, pilots should not wear glasses that are darker than this: in order to avoid excessive impairment of their ability to distinguish between colors, many aviation authorities advise against using lenses with a tint density above 85%.

Important: why pilots should avoid polarization filters for their glasses

Sunglasses or prescription eyeglass lenses with polarization filters are not suitable for most pilots. Such filters normally provide protection against reflections, but pilots should always avoid them, as the special structure of many cockpit screens combined with the effect of polarizing lenses can quickly impair a pilot's vision, occasionally preventing the pilot from noticing certain signals at all. In certain weather conditions, some aircraft can be difficult to visibly detect, or only recognizable by the sunlight reflecting off their outer shell. If this reflection is blocked by an additional polarization filter in their glasses, the pilot may not see the other aircraft at all, which presents a hazardous situation. Also, depending on the position of the pilot's head, LCD displays (instruments, navigation devices, etc.) may be impossible to read through such lenses, or may be perceived simply as black surfaces.

Perfect for pilots: ZEISS gradient lenses

When choosing their sunglasses, pilots should always look for neutral lens tints (your ZEISS eye care professional will be happy to advise you on the wide range of options). ZEISS sun protection lenses are especially designed for applications where increased UV and glare protection and high-contrast vision are important. In this case, "high contrast" means being able to differentiate better between colors, so that a green meadow far in the distance is clearly – and unmistakably – perceived as green. This also enables pilots to "read" weather conditions better, especially cloud changes. As such, any impairment of the pilot's ability to recognize colors is largely eliminated so that all the instruments can be read perfectly and reliably.

Since they mainly filter the blue portion of the light spectrum, many tinted sunglasses or glasses with prescription lenses impair this color perception. This is why aviation authorities advise against such lenses. However, for those who still value a little color, the new ZEISS gradient lenses offer a safe variant specifically suited for use on aircraft. For example, the top section of the lens can be tinted dark brown and the bottom section a lighter color that makes it easier to read the cockpit instruments. Eyeglass lenses with optimum light reduction, a neutral color pallet and 100% UV protection match the strict lens requirements set for professional pilots by authorities and pilots' associations.

By the way: pilots should avoid phototropic or self-tinting sunglasses, as these always take a few seconds to adjust to changes in light and UV conditions.

Safety plus comfortable vision with progressive lenses

Sooner or later, it catches up with most pilots who wear glasses: they can no longer see objects in the distance or those at close range with the same clarity. For pilots, this is more than an inconvenience – it is also presents a potential hazard. Progressive lenses have been tried and tested for combatting this problem in aircraft applications. Like a tailor-made suit, they are customized to fit the wearer, and provide pilots with razor-sharp vision both for distant objects (towers and air traffic) and close range (e.g., instrument displays in the cockpit). Combined with ZEISS sun protection lenses, these are the perfect glasses for pilots.

What matters when choosing eyeglass frames?

All-round coverage is important. Eyeglass frames that are good for pilots include wrap-around styles with curved lenses: these are gently contoured around the face to effectively dampen any distracting stray light that would otherwise get in the wearer's eyes from the side or behind. The temples should be thin and not too far away from the head so that the pilot's headset can function properly. As a basic rule, eyeglass frames for pilots should be comfortable to wear for long periods, and not tight against the head.  This is easy if you observe a few rules.

Tip:  if you take your headset with you to the eye doctor, they will be able to take its size into account when recommending the perfect frames. If you really want to be on the safe side, ask if you can borrow the frames to test them out. Your ZEISS eye care professional will be happy to help you with this.

By the way:

many pilots round off their glasses with a powerful lens finish such as  DuraVision®  Platinum from ZEISS, in order to protect them against scratches and other damage from their surroundings.

Image: © Stacey Newman

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