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I'm a student pilot and I won't be able to wear sunglasses for 5 months... Now, how am I going to fly? I know you don't have to wear them but it's easier (brightness etc. etc.). Are there any alternatives you can give for flying? I've never tried a hat, is that a good option for the moment? Maybe it's a silly question but do sunglass contact lenses exist?

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    $\begingroup$ Can I ask why you can't wear sun glasses? $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Jul 28 '17 at 12:27
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    $\begingroup$ Depending on where you would be flying you could try to fly on days with a high overcast. Flying during night and twilight would certainly be an option as well. $\endgroup$ – J Walters Jul 28 '17 at 12:59
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    $\begingroup$ Slap on Sun Visor? $\endgroup$ – abelenky Jul 28 '17 at 13:51
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    $\begingroup$ How about these that clip onto a hat? amazon.com/Brett-Bros-Baseball-Flip-Sunglasses/dp/B00B466C1A $\endgroup$ – JScarry Jul 28 '17 at 17:49
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    $\begingroup$ You might also consider flying in a high-wing plane. I rarely need sunglasses in my Cessna and use them all the time in the Cherokee. $\endgroup$ – JScarry Jul 28 '17 at 17:51
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To address the question about contact sunglass lenses...

Contact lenses are available with custom dyes, used for examples by actors to create eye colors not inherent to the actor. Similarly, contacts can be obtained with tint which would attenuate the visible light, in a manner similar to sunglasses.

You should talk with a contact lens dispenser, as they will have access to the offerings of their suppliers.

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I've been flying for over twenty years. I've never once worn sunglasses or a hat in the cockpit, with exception of a view limiting device (i.e. hood). I understand why many pilots wear sun glasses and have nothing against it, but for me I feel like it hinders my vision more than helps.

You can fly just fine without sun glasses. One thing that might help, is to make sure you wipe down your windshield before flight to make sure its clean and clear, in order to reduce glare.

A baseball cap might be a good idea if your airplane doesn't have sun visors.

You should be totally fine. Flying without sunglasses is like flying without noise cancelling headsets. Its a creature comfort, but not absolutely necessary for safe operation.

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The nice thing about polycarbonite windshields is that they block the bulk of the UV, which is the primary reason protection sought by sunglasses.

The DPE who administered my private checkride told me that he found that wearing sunglasses created a dependency on them, in his opinion. I changed my ways, and concur with his finding. My ophthalmologist agrees.

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  • $\begingroup$ I thought it was just me. $\endgroup$ – Devil07 Aug 2 '17 at 14:48
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    $\begingroup$ 41 years not wearing sunglasses flying. The eye has served man for al long time in various environments, without sunglasses. $\endgroup$ – mongo Aug 2 '17 at 16:01
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It wasn't clear from your original post exactly why you cannot wear sunglasses. I wasn't aware of any restrictions (at least in the United States) on student pilots wearing them.

While @Devil07 is correct that sunglasses are not strictly required for safety purposes, they do offer vital protection against damage to your eyes. To quote the American Optometric Association's article Why you need sunglasses, you need sunglasses for:

  • UV protection. The sun's UV radiation can cause cataracts, benign growths on the eye's surface, and cancer of the eyelids and skin around the eyes. UV radiation can also cause photokeratitis, sometimes called snow blindness, which is a temporary but painful sunburn of the eye's surface. Wide-brimmed hats and caps can only block about 50 percent of UV radiation from the eyes.
  • Blue light protection. Long-term exposure to the blue and violet portion of the solar spectrum is a risk factor for macular degeneration, especially for people who are sun-sensitive.
  • Comfortable vision. The sun's brightness and glare interferes with comfortable vision. Sunlight affects clear vision by causing people to squint and the eyes to water.
  • Dark adaptation. Spending just two or three hours in bright sunlight can hamper the eyes' ability to adapt quickly to nighttime or indoor light levels. This can make driving at night more hazardous.

I should note that I actually don't wear sunglasses...I wear prescription glasses with transition lenses that provide some of the protections mentioned above.

You also asked about contact lenses. The AOA also has an article on contact lenses that provide UV protection.

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  • $\begingroup$ Any poly-carbonate lens eyeglasses will provide adequate UV protection. Cataracts when the lens of the eye, which is internal, not the surface, clouds or becomes opaque. $\endgroup$ – mongo Aug 2 '17 at 16:07
  • $\begingroup$ do you have any published literature on the dark adaptation times being adversely impacted by two or three hours of bright sunlight? There are several mechanisms that they eye has for light dark adaptation, and there is a plethora of peer reviewed articles which document the dark adaptation times, and generally, are short. In fact the eye has a dynamic range of 100,000,000:1, in part due to the transition from rods to cones, pupillary response, photopigments and also the receptors themselves. However, normal adaptation to full night vision occurs in 30 to 40 minutes. $\endgroup$ – mongo Aug 2 '17 at 16:17
  • $\begingroup$ @mongo I do not. Please note I've quoted an article on the AOA website and am not asserting the items they've iterated myself necessarily. $\endgroup$ – bclarkreston Aug 2 '17 at 16:21
  • $\begingroup$ For a better understanding of light adaptation, I would suggest looking at resources which don't have an interest in selling sunglasses. A colleague has a nice set of lecture notes cns.nyu.edu/~david/courses/perception/lecturenotes/light-adapt/… which you might find interesting and informative. I do not believe that the quoted statements are accurate, given my experience as an imaging scientist, and my knowledge of the human visual system. I am curious what coating your own glasses have which protects light/dark adaptation. $\endgroup$ – mongo Aug 2 '17 at 16:30
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, I admittedly misspoke by saying the coating on my glasses provide all of the protections mentioned above. I will correct it. My glasses have transition lenses that do provide UV protection, which I still believe is critical. If you disagree, I am open minded and willing to learn from someone who knows better about this specific subject than I do. $\endgroup$ – bclarkreston Aug 2 '17 at 16:46

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