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Choosing Pilot Sunglasses. Which sunglasses are the best for aviation and how do you really know?

Our Guide to Choosing the Best Pilot Sunglasses.

For all forms of aviation, your choice of sunnies must be led by the technology and function of both the frames and lenses.

A pilots’ sunglasses have to perform extremely well in the complex environment of the flightdeck, so the lens technology has to be advanced enough to accomplish multiple tasks to a high standard.

There are several eyewear companies who claim to be aviation specialists, but when you look closely behind the marketing, many of their claims swiftly lose credibility.

Recognising Good Technology, from sales Gibberish.

Have a look at the websites of other sunglasses brands. They’ll all tell you, big or small, that they have the best lens technology on the planet. The problem for the consumer, is knowing the difference between real technology and pure sales hype.

I hope that taking you through our story will help you with your own evaluation process.

I will take you through some of the aspects that we considered whilst we were developing Bigatmo pilot sunglasses and things that you should think about when choosing your own sunglasses for the flight deck. We will tell you about the research, evaluation and testing that we did. The processes we went through and the decisions we made.

I hope it helps you to form your own opinion about elements you should consider when looking for a pair of sunglasses to buy for yourself. So here goes…

The Start of Something New!..

Alastair Carrie, founder of Bigatmo, is an airline pilot who was having trouble finding non polarized sunglasses that performed well in the challenging environment of a flightdeck. The search droned on and on until eventually a frustrated optician suggested that we might like to design our own.

We were rather naïve;  “All we need to do is get the best lenses in the world and pop them into the perfect frame; how hard can that be?”…. Quite hard actually – even with access to the amazing resources we have.  As we were to find out, those things just didn’t exist.

Luckily, in fact extremely luckily, we were introduced to one of the leading personalities in the global eyewear industry and he became our mentor. That’s how we were able to access and work with, the best optical companies that the world has to offer.

It intrigued us to discover that there was so much advanced lens technology, but so few brands prepared to pay for it.

We realised that with our unique access to airliner flightdecks, we could harness that technology and produce a genuine, world class product. So, we set about choosing the strongest technology and developing lenses that would excel under any atmospheric conditions- (The weather!).

Our big plans also concerned the development of our sculpted titanium frame designs – lightweight, secure fit and super comfortable.

This was the beginning of the Bigatmo brand.

Look at the lens technology.

Try not to be mis-lead by made up ‘pseudo’ technical language.

Think about:

  • If a brand isn’t shouting about the lens material they’re using, why not?
  • Do they explain why they use the lens material they use?
  • Are they fully explaining the technology they use, or are they relying on jargon to sound better than they really are?
  • Do they compare lens materials?
  • How are they managing the sun filter?
  • How did they choose the tint and light transmission rate?
  • How good is the lens acuity?
  • How are the lenses set up to perform in high contrast environments?
  • Have they dealt with colour acuity?
  • What about the lens coatings? Not all coatings are the same quality.
  • What about lens weight?
  • What level of impact resistance does the lens provide?
  • Do they have a sophisticated prescription program, should you require it?
  • The list goes on!

Frames are the other part of this equation.

  • Comfort, performance lightweight and durability are essential elements to consider.
  • What materials are the frames made out of?
  • Are the frames designed to give you the optimum coverage and light exclusion?
  • What about peripheral vision?
  • Are the frames sculpted to stay in place without slipping?
  • Are the temples compatible with ANR noise reducing headsets?
  • Would the frames remain comfortable for long days on the flightdeck (and driving to and from the airport)?

We addressed every question in these lists, along with many more. When everything has been taken care of properly, the end result is a pair of sunglasses that you simply put on and forget about.

Choosing the Best Pilot Sunglasses Technology.

Unusually, for such a small company and thanks to a chance meeting, we had access to all the major lens companies around the world. We gradually reduced these to a short list of five companies. We met with them and came up with a clear winner.

We researched the different lens materials and evaluated them for overall performance. A combination of optical, mechanical and chemical properties makes NXT®/Trivex® our ideal sun lens material. Several manufacturers have produced high quality polarised NXT®/Trivex® sun lenses but there is only one company that owns the patented techniques required to successfully incorporate high tech sun filters (tints) to non-polarised lenses and this is the company we chose to work with. We now had our lens partners and were looking forward to benefiting from their Light Management Technology (LMT) for the development of our own lenses.

They had already used LMT to develop their excellent High Contrast Narrow Band (HCNB) Grey and Polarised Grey lenses, which became the basis of our Zeolite lenses.

Research and Testing.

The next stage was to embark on a research program, to determine the properties of the lenses that we wanted.

Airliner flightdecks are the obvious test environment for pilot sunglasses and where we centred our lens development research.

We chose the flight deck firstly because we could. Practically speaking it’s extremely difficult for other companies to do the same sort of thing; especially on a similar scale.

The second reason is that the flight deck is an excellent test environment because  you have exactly the same conditions as on the ground, except more extreme.

Sometimes conditions change very fast whereas at other times they can be stable, perhaps with strong sunlight entering the flightdeck, at much the same angle, for a long time. The contrast can be dramatic, extreme bright sunlight and deep shade. Flying through cloud is not a uniform experience, sometimes the environment will be darker but often it will be full of glare.

It’s also one of the few environments where you experience such a variety of weather phenomena in a single day. You might take off in fog, fly in varying conditions, land in snow and then fly home into the sun to make an approach in bright low evening sun.

In other words, it’s a bit like terrestrial light conditions on steroids. providing the opportunity to develop a brilliant and extremely versatile sun lens for a wide variety of applications.

We started off by testing the preferences of pilots to 78 different tints and gradually whittled away until there were just two. It seems, the vast majority of us, will opt for a grey or a copper/brown lens.

The next stage of the process involved testing different variants of the lenses in an evolutionary process until we knew that the final product was absolutely right. The whole process took eighteen months and was said to have been the most extensive flight deck study to have been undertaken.

The Result of Research and Testing.

The result is our range of Bigatmo lenses which are produced in both plano (non- prescription) and prescription.

They not only perform superbly well in all sorts of flightdecks, but will offer you that same performance at sea-level and on the ground too.

To take a closer look at our technology, why not start here with NXT®/Trivex®

We know you have a lot to consider when choosing sunglasses. If we can be of any help, please call us, we’re a friendly bunch and like to be of use: +447553565140


Written and researched by Bigatmosphere Ltd.