Airplane Cockpit Windscreens and Polarization
Most airplane cockpit windscreens are at least partially Polarized from either built-in polarization or from windscreen heating elements.
When you look through a polarized windscreen the world looks normal.
But when you look at a polarized windscreen through polarized Sunglasses you can get a rainbow effect, a marae pattern if you will, which makes it difficult to see through effectively, and it becomes a potential safety issue.
Polarized vs Non-Polarized Aviator Sunglasses
For most people wearing polarized sunglasses it simply helps reduce glare off windows, ice or water; however, for pilots using polarized sunglasses there can be a number of serious problems.
Pilots need to know that by using non-polarized sunglasses they will get all of the benefits of glare reduction, eye relief and improved clarity but without the distortion or marae patterns common with polarized aviator sunglasses.
With a pair of quality non-polarized sunglasses there are no patterns, and you will get the benefit of reduced glare and clarity which are very helpful for improving details in clouds, terrain and the ability to see other aircraft.
Polarized Sunglasses Affect Your Ability To See Instruments
Most digital displays have some sort of polarization in their screens or glass which looks normal to the naked eye. But polarized lenses act like venetian blinds only letting in light waves at certain angles. Good for glare reduction, but not good for looking at instruments!
When you are wearing polarized aviator sunglasses and you tilt your head much of the light emitted from the instruments is filtered out or distorted. But with non-polarized lenses your screens are easily read at any angle.
Again, looking at your instruments and tilting your head 30 to 40 degrees like when you are looking at the center console or just bending or reaching over for something your instruments can just disappear or become unreadable. This can also happen with the center console radio heads.
This is less than optimal and problematic.
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And now you know why pilots need non-polarized sunglasses for flying.
For More Than Just Pilots
But wait, this can also be a problem for you even if you are not a pilot.
Today we see LCD screens everywhere: in our cars, on our cell phones, tablets and computers, as well as on everyday items like gas pumps.
So even if you are not a pilot you need to consider your environment when deciding to purchase a good quality pair of aviator sunglasses and choose whether to get polarized or non-polarized sunglasses.
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Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch!
About John White
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