Seeking Prescription Sunglasses Advice

I am an older student pilot. Before I started flight training, I had an eye exam and bought some (non-polarized) prescription sunglasses. First really sunny day I discovered the tint is too dark. I could see outside alright, but then the instruments were too dark. Honestly, even the outside was darker than I would have liked. 

I did some reading and noticed there are a myriad of sunglass options - different tints, different colors, gradient, to name a few.

What have you discovered that works for you? Or maybe you know of a good resource or article to help me decide?

Thank you! ~ Mike

33 Replies
Ronald Levy
1669 Posts

@Michael Bellino
I have a similar problem with my older eyes and presbyopia.  Ask your optometrist to write you a prescription for glasses with a gradient from sunglasses at the top to clear at the bottom.


@Michael Bellino
I use prescription polarized progressive lens sunglasses when I fly. I've tried non-polarized lenses but the polarized lenses dramatically cut down on the glare from above. I can feel my eyes relax when I put them on. The only downside that I've found with the polarized lenses is my iPad Mini. I have to rotate it into the portrait orientation or the opposite polarization of the glass faceplate makes the screen too dim to see in daylight even with maximum brightness set. I mentioned this to a pilot friend of mine who complained about the display being dim even at maximum brightness. He was unaware of the polarization issue but when he rotated his iPad it fixed the problem. None of the other avionics in the airplane use polarized glass faceplates. Even the newer avionics like my Garmin GTN 650, G5 and Appareo ESG don't have polarized glass.

My sunglasses are fairly dark since my eyes are blue and light sensitive. Under a broken or overcast cloud layer I sometimes have to switch to my clear glasses. I haven't tried transition lenses that darken in bright light but I know a pilot who uses them and he says that they don't get very dark. That wouldn't work for me.

I started out with aviator style frames but switched to a more rectangular frame. While they look cool, progressive aviator style lenses don't leave a very large focal area at the bottom of the lens for reading the instruments.

Paul Burke
2 Posts
1. You may find polarized sunglasses cause issues reading instruments in the aircraft. (Most people do)
2. Using glasses that darken and lighten does not work well for most folks. the darken quick but lighten slowly.
3. I found luck with glasses that allow a GOOD clip on over the regular glasses. They are specifically made for this as are the clip on, which are  usually magnetic.
I have the same problem as you do Mike. I got Ray Bans with non polarized lens. Works great. I used to use clip-ons but hard to find non polarized lens for those. 

Contact Ray Hobbs at Sky Sight Vision.  He sells unique glasses to support older eyes (like mine!). 
Tim Sparks
1 Posts

I buy aviator style non prescription sunglasses at the Military Exchange, you can probably find them on Amazon. Then I take my prescription to the glasses place and tell them to put prescription lenses in the frame.  Since I have Bifocals and I flew airliners I have then adjust the BF line down since the instrument panel is about 3 feet from my eye and i can focus on those looking through the top. When I reading charts/eyepads and typing on  the FMS I need the Bifocal section.  For the tint I have them put a graident tint with light on the bottom and dark on the top. It might take a few trys to get them to get the tint right.

Polarized doesn't work in airplanes with a electrically heated windshield since there is a mesh of wire in the glass.  Clip on sunglasses might be the cheapest solution, you could cut the lower half off as well to experiment to see things in the darer CP