How Important Are Aviator Sunglasses For Pilots?

Many people choose aviator sunglasses as a fashion statement, but for pilots the choice of sunglasses is a much more critical decision, one which should not be taken lightly without knowledge about the importance of eye protection.
There is a lot of evidence that light, both that which we can see (visible light), and light we cannot see (ultraviolet light), potentially can damage a pilot's eyes and can lead to cataracts, macular degeneration, or, in some cases, skin cancer around the eyelids.

We all know that viewing very intense light sources likes the flash from a welder's torch, or viewing a solar eclipse, can cause serious damage to our eyes, or even blindness. Clearly we are all aware that serious eye injuries can occur from viewing welding arcs without any eye protection. Properly protecting our eyes from these events can prevent injury to our eyes.
For pilots proper eye protection is even more important as they are a pilot's most important sensory asset. Because of their exposure to large amounts of ultraviolet radiation proper aviator sunglasses are essential because of their shape which protects the largest are around the eye socket, preventing harmful rays from reaching the eye itself.

Pilots are also exposed to more of the harmful rays from the sun because they fly at higher altitudes reducing the amount of diffusion light experiences as it travels through the earth's atmosphere to the earth's surface.
In addition, recent scientific studies have warned that depletion of the ozone layer around the earth has reduced the amount of harmful radiation from the sun blocked by the ozone layer before reaching the lower atmosphere.

There are two types of light which we need to protect our eyes from:
1. UV-A, also known as "tanning rays" in the 315 to 400 nanometer wavelengths;
2. UV-B, also known as "burning rays" in the 280 to 315 nanometer wavelengths, and;
3. UV-C, known as the "dangerous rays" in the 100 to 280 nanometer wavelengths.
All light is a form of energy, and ultraviolet light rays are very strong and can cause damage to eyes if the eyes have prolonged and/or direct exposure to these powerful rays.

UV-B, or "blue light", is in the visible range and have been linked to skin cancer, as well as cancer of the skin around the eye socket. In addition, UV-B exposure is strongly linked to cortical cataract formation in the eyes.
When prolonged or continual exposure to ultraviolet radiation cannot be avoided the most effective form of protection for pilots are aviator sunglasses. Because of their shape they provide the greatest amount of protection for the pilots eyes.
As an ATP pilot with an MBA in business, the author writes a daily blog about aviation called "All Things Aviation." In order to serve his community the author reviews pilot supplies for pilots.

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