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FAA Study On Sunglasses And Aviation Accidents

by John M. White |

During daylight hours pilots almost always need to wear sunglasses which effectively reduce glare, eliminate visual fatigue and help with dark adaptation as the flight continued into night time. However, choosing the correct sunglasses can make the difference between a successful safe flight and one that ends in tragedy. The reason is that choosing the wrong kind of sunglasses with the wrong lenses can create more problems than it solves. This is due to the increasing use of electronic displays in aircraft instrument panels and navigation equipment.

Polarized Sunglasses Lenses And Aviation Accidents

By definition polarized sunglasses lenses means that the lenses are polarized - in other words they are designed in such a way as to eliminate light from a particular direction. Most polarized lenses are polarized in the vertical plane which means only light which is vibrating in the vertical plane can get through. Horizontal light is blocked and not allowed to pass through the lens. Glare or glint is almost always in the horizontal plane, so polarized lenses are excellent for blocking out that light. But this also presents some problems with pilots flying aircraft with glass cockpit displays.

Liquid Crystal Displays - LCDs

Liquid Crystal Displays have a filter in them which blocks out light in the vertical plane while allowing light in the horizontal plane to pass through. This means if you are wearing polarized sunglasses and looking at a liquid crystal display it will simply look black, and you will not be able to see the data being displayed.

Anti-glare Filters And Striations In Aircraft Windscreens

Polarized sunglasses can reduce or eliminate the ability to see instruments or interfere with visibility through an laminated aircraft windscreen with striations in it. Furthermore, polarized sunglasses lenses can mask the glint of light reflected off of the aluminum skin of an aircraft, making converging aircraft difficult or near impossible to see. In turn this will either reduce or eliminate the amount of time a pilot has to see and avoid other aircraft, creating an extremely dangerous situation.

Aviation Accidents And Incidents Associated With The Use Of Sunglasses

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) commissioned a study of aircraft accidents and incidents between January of 1980 and December 31st 1988. This study concluded that the misuse or lack of use of sunglasses was a factor in 6 aircraft incidents and 1 aircraft accident. As a result of this data the FAA has come up with a number of recommendations concerning the use of sunglasses for Aviation Medical Examiners (AMEs), pilots and their eyecare practitioners.

Federal Aviation Administration Recommendations

  • Sunglasses should fit snugly on your head or an eyeglass strap should be used at all times to prevent the sunglasses from becoming dislodged while flying;
  • All screws on the aviator sunglasses frame should be inspected and tightened as needed to prevent a lens from popping out or a temple from falling off;
  • If the sunglasses contain a refractive prescription said prescription should be optimal for all applicable distances and should be comfortable for the pilot to wear;
  • Contact lenses should always be properly maintained and a backup pair of glasses with sunglasses clip-ons carried at all times;
  • A quality pair of sunglasses should be worn at all times during daylight to prevent glare and flash blindness, and to assist with transition light conditions to night flight.

Diminished Visual Performance Poses A Serious Threat To Flight Safety

The study found that a combination of poor environmental conditions and diminished visual performance pose a serious threat to aviation safety. In conclusion the report found that reduced visual performance from improper sunglasses or their use has resulted in aviation accidents. Any aviator sunglasses chosen by pilots should fit easily under communication headsets or other headgear pilots may wear while flying.

Randolph Aviator Sunglasses

Over the years pilots around the world, both civilian and military, have chosen Randolph Aviator Sunglasses because of the durability of the frames, the visual acuity attained through the lenses and the superior long term performance of the sunglasses. While more expensive than some sunglasses, Randolph Aviator Sunglasses represent great value given their Made in America quality, beauty and durability.]]> During daylight hours pilots almost always need to wear sunglasses which effectively reduce glare, eliminate visual fatigue and help with dark adaptation as the flight continued into night time. However, choosing the correct sunglasses can make the difference between a successful safe flight and one that ends in tragedy. The reason is that choosing the wrong kind of sunglasses with the wrong lenses can create more problems than it solves. This is due to the increasing use of electronic displays in aircraft instrument panels and navigation equipment.

Polarized Sunglasses Lenses And Aviation Accidents

By definition polarized sunglasses lenses means that the lenses are polarized - in other words they are designed in such a way as to eliminate light from a particular direction. Most polarized lenses are polarized in the vertical plane which means only light which is vibrating in the vertical plane can get through. Horizontal light is blocked and not allowed to pass through the lens. Glare or glint is almost always in the horizontal plane, so polarized lenses are excellent for blocking out that light. But this also presents some problems with pilots flying aircraft with glass cockpit displays.

Liquid Crystal Displays - LCDs

Liquid Crystal Displays have a filter in them which blocks out light in the vertical plane while allowing light in the horizontal plane to pass through. This means if you are wearing polarized sunglasses and looking at a liquid crystal display it will simply look black, and you will not be able to see the data being displayed.

Anti-glare Filters And Striations In Aircraft Windscreens

Polarized sunglasses can reduce or eliminate the ability to see instruments or interfere with visibility through an laminated aircraft windscreen with striations in it. Furthermore, polarized sunglasses lenses can mask the glint of light reflected off of the aluminum skin of an aircraft, making converging aircraft difficult or near impossible to see. In turn this will either reduce or eliminate the amount of time a pilot has to see and avoid other aircraft, creating an extremely dangerous situation.

Aviation Accidents And Incidents Associated With The Use Of Sunglasses

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) commissioned a study of aircraft accidents and incidents between January of 1980 and December 31st 1988. This study concluded that the misuse or lack of use of sunglasses was a factor in 6 aircraft incidents and 1 aircraft accident. As a result of this data the FAA has come up with a number of recommendations concerning the use of sunglasses for Aviation Medical Examiners (AMEs), pilots and their eyecare practitioners.

Federal Aviation Administration Recommendations

  • Sunglasses should fit snugly on your head or an eyeglass strap should be used at all times to prevent the sunglasses from becoming dislodged while flying;
  • All screws on the aviator sunglasses frame should be inspected and tightened as needed to prevent a lens from popping out or a temple from falling off;
  • If the sunglasses contain a refractive prescription said prescription should be optimal for all applicable distances and should be comfortable for the pilot to wear;
  • Contact lenses should always be properly maintained and a backup pair of glasses with sunglasses clip-ons carried at all times;
  • A quality pair of sunglasses should be worn at all times during daylight to prevent glare and flash blindness, and to assist with transition light conditions to night flight.

Diminished Visual Performance Poses A Serious Threat To Flight Safety

The study found that a combination of poor environmental conditions and diminished visual performance pose a serious threat to aviation safety. In conclusion the report found that reduced visual performance from improper sunglasses or their use has resulted in aviation accidents. Any aviator sunglasses chosen by pilots should fit easily under communication headsets or other headgear pilots may wear while flying.

Randolph Aviator Sunglasses

Over the years pilots around the world, both civilian and military, have chosen Randolph Aviator Sunglasses because of the durability of the frames, the visual acuity attained through the lenses and the superior long term performance of the sunglasses. While more expensive than some sunglasses, Randolph Aviator Sunglasses represent great value given their Made in America quality, beauty and durability.

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