IFR Training Hoods: ViBAN, Overcasters Top

Choose for personal comfort and compatibility with eyeglasses. Our market scan proved there's plenty of variability in fit, form and comfort.

The FAA calls them view-limiting devices, or VLDs, but we call them hoods. The concept is simple: In visual conditions simulate instrument conditions by restricting the pilot’s view to only the instrument panel and nothing outside. Who among us, however, hasn’t had “the hood” on and still snuck a peak outside? So, no matter how much it restricts your vision to the sides, you can always turn your head just that little bit and get a fleeting glimpse of the visual world beyond the instrument panel.

But, if you want to simulate instrument conditions in the actual airplane, other than impractically blocking the windows themselves, the best option is something you wear that restricts your view. Although simple in concept, the perfect hood remains elusive. Nonetheless, any of the products reviewed here are effective at their primary purpose of restricting your view to (mostly) just the instrument panel.

Our Evaluation

1 Blockall RED

We evaluated each of these view-limiting devices for their practicality, quality of construction, expected durability and sufficient comfort to wear for some time. Our author/standard test dummy is a pilot who wears conventional headphones while flying and also wears prescription glasses and sunglasses.

We believe donning the view-limiting device shouldn’t be too challenging, and it must be possible to get it off or out of the way quickly when the instructor proclaims, “Runway in sight. Land visually.” Plus, fumbling to remove it close to the ground is dangerously distracting and lacks the realism of a sudden switch from instruments to visual reference.

This presents a possible limitation of the devices that are secured with an elastic strap. While it might be possible to put the strap over a headset you’re wearing, we don’t recommend that due to the possibility of the strap getting caught on the headset band. So, to put on the device you must remove your headset. Quick removal, therefore, is not possible. However, most of the devices that do use a strap can be slid higher onto your head, opening up the view. This requires a slight practiced maneuver that is quickly mastered. Nonetheless, consider the limitations presented by a strap when considering one of these devices.

7 Hood group

Of course, the band only presents a challenge for conventional, over-the-top headsets; in-the-ear headsets and those with no headband work fine with the band. Initially we thought we were looking for one view-limiting device that best suited every user. The reality is that these are more user-specific, like not accommodating eyeglasses or presenting the strap challenges. Choose carefully. With these parameters in mind, we set out to see what the market offered.

We looked at nearly every one we could find. In a broad view, these come in two general types: hoods and glasses. We’ll look at glasses first and hoods second.

MJ Blockalls

To envision Blockalls, think of wrap-around sunglasses, but made of clear plastic. Apply an opaque coating that blocks vision above and to the sides, leaving some of the clear lens to let you see the panel.

2 Hood lede image

Blockalls are unique in that they have different models for different purposes. Since the vision is tightly restricted, they’ve actually slightly offset the unobstructed view so that, for example, the PIC can see directly in front, can’t see to the left, but can see a bit farther to the right for a better view of the radios. That’s the PIC model.

Seat-specific Blockalls also come in a CFII/SIC model with the offset to the left, allowing the wearer to see a bit farther to the left for use in the right seat. While of dubious use to a CFII, an SIC, however, might find this design useful. There’s a third design specifically for helicopter pilots.

Blockalls come in different colors. The color application is always opaque, usually over a clear lens. Blockalls are we’ll made and quite comfortable. The straight ear bows allow for easy on and off, even under a conventional headset.

Most Blockalls are $28.95. They’re not compatible with eyeglasses of any type. The simplicity of design, comfortable use with a very soft bridge and effectiveness make Blockalls our top choice for pilots who need not wear other glasses-which is rare. They come with a storage bag.

6 bJiffy hood 1

There are many similar view-limiting devices that are simple glasses, usually with some degree of wraparound, but without the offset, of course.

We only tested Blockalls, but perhaps one notable example of these others is a product from IFRglasses.com and many retailers. Their products have ratcheting temples to allow some adjustability of the obstructed view.

IFRglasses.com offers this as Cloud-Eeze for $16.95 and a similar model they call Old Foggies is offered with bifocal correction built in for $29.95-$34.95 depending on color and coating. While Cloud-Eeze appears to be a viable product, we wonder what one is supposed to do when removing Old Foggies.

Foggles

5 Overcasters

Foggles have more or less become the industry standard, and for the good reason that they do it all, albeit imperfectly. They can be worn with or without most glasses, are quick to don and remove, work we’ll beneath a headset and aren’t terribly expensive at around $18 to $20.

Foggles were the first of what has become a popular design of glasses and over glasses. The original Foggles are actually modified safety goggles. They’re made of clear or colored plastic with frosting over all but the view straight ahead. They’re designed to fit over many types of glasses. The curved, but not hooked, temples allow quick on and off.

But, Foggles have some drawbacks. While sufficient for our purposes, they’re not the best made. In fact, the underlying safety glasses are intended to be somewhat disposable, so sometimes not a lot of care is taken to smooth out the actual rough edges, and durability is sometimes lacking. (One flight instructor we know uses a pair of Foggles with tape across the bridge to keep them together, bringing back memories of high-school nerds.)

In addition, the plastic is soft, so the lens is easily scratched. Last, many users complain that the frosting, which is not opaque, causes a lot of glare and fatigue when flying in direct sunlight. Foggles come with a storage pouch, are available in clear/frost and yellow/frost, but we prefer the clear with sunglasses as needed.

Sporty’s, Jeppesen

8 SportysIFR Training Glasses

Given the shortcomings of Foggles, similar products have evolved. We particularly like the IFR Training Glasses ($17.95 from Sporty’s), which refine the concept of overglasses. They work we’ll without underlying glasses and even over most eyeglasses or sunglasses. The temples ratchet up, down and at the hinge for some adjustability of the obstructed area, and the temples are even length adjustable for a good fit.

Like Foggles, though, the view obstruction is from frosting that might cause some glare problems in certain light. Nonetheless, we think the IFR Training Glasses are an improvement over Foggles at a slightly lower price, offering nicely improved comfort.

Jeppesen says its JeppShades are similar to Foggles, but we found them conceptually similar to the ASA Overcasters (covered in the subhead below) except that JeppShades are self-contained. While they flip up for a quick, unobstructed view, they include a frame so you don’t need other glasses. The frame will work over some glasses, but perhaps not overly large frames. It has a Velcro-adjustable strap rather than standard temples. The strap is comfortable but makes them a bit more difficult to put on and take off. Because of the flip feature, though, they need not be removed for an unobstructed view.

JeppShades use an opaque white plastic, not black like the Overcasters. JeppShades are $30.96 from Jeppesen. They seem durable, but, like the Overcasters, there’s a small rivet that could be a weak spot after extended use. JeppShades are just bulky enough that a little care is necessary in storage in the supplied storage pouch.

ASA Overcasters

3 TheBestHood

Remember clip-on sunglasses? If you wear prescription glasses, you can get shaded plastic lenses that are on a one- or two-function clip. You use one function to clip the lenses to your prescription glasses right at the bridge. This attachment is unobtrusive and works we’ll to hold the shaded lenses in front of your prescription glasses.

An optional second function of that clip is to allow the shaded lenses to be flipped up out of the way to effectively and instantly revert to your prescription lenses without removing the sunglasses-a bit dorky, perhaps, but quick, easy and effective.

Overcasters work the same, but instead of a shaded plastic lens, opaque black plastic occludes your vision above and to the sides. In use, since you’re not actually removing the Overcasters, it’s simple and quick to flip them up for normal vision or back down for the “hood.”

Attaching the Overcasters to prescription glasses or sunglasses will certainly require removing your glasses the first few times at least. However, once you put them on your glasses, perhaps during preflight, you can flip them up or down in an instant and won’t have to remove them from your glasses until the end of the flight.

The clip is solid and tight. The pivot, however, is attached to the black plastic with two small rivets on each side of the bridge of your glasses. These appear solid, but we suspect the rivets could be a weak point that could cause cracking of the plastic over years of flipping them up and down. But, we saw no evidence of this during our testing.

At only $19.95, we think Overcasters are the best choice for pilots who always wear glasses of some type (prescription or sunglasses) when flying. Note, though, that Overcasters require existing glasses, so pilots with good vision will need another solution at night and when not wearing sunglasses.

4 ViBANwGlasses

Overcasters are as comfortable as the glasses to which you clip them. The sides make them bulky enough that some care should be exercised during storage.

We like that the ASA Overcasters are offset to provide a better view of the instrument panel to the right (radios) than to the left. Worth noting is the Blockalls offer this as a model-specific feature, so be sure to ask for it when you order.

The Best Hood

One of the proclaimed top choices in previous Aviation Consumer hood reviews, we think The Best Hood remains a good choice. It’s similar to a model called the Jiffyhood, which is similar to the The Best Hood.

If you already understand what the Jiffyhood (we cover it on page 16) is and how it works, The Best Hood is similar, except cheaper and simpler.

But don’t mistake The Best Hood for a high-quality, durable accessory. It’s made of cardboard that’s about the same weight as a file folder. That’s creased and folded to provide a large but constrained viewing area. It’s reasonably comfortable against your forehead and secured with a rather meager elastic strap that is simply stapled to the cardboard.

Nonetheless, it works, and works we’ll to provide a kind of large tunnel through which you view the instrument panel and little else. Since it sits high on your head, glasses aren’t a problem.

With a standard headset, putting on The Best Hood could be a little effort, but like most of the other hoods that use a strap, when you need it out of the way, you can just slide it up on your head for a nearly unobstructed view. After your flight, it folds flat and you can store it virtually anywhere.

As the manufacturer suggests, we like The Best Hood more than we thought on first glance. And, for $10 delivered from the manufacturer (TheBestHood.com) you can’t go wrong. Given that it’s made of cardboard, though, we expect it’ll get soiled and possibly crumpled after a few uses.

The Hoody, Super Hood

The Hoody is relatively new to the market and offers an intriguing new design that uses a ball cap (not supplied) as the foundation.

The product is essentially just a piece of opaque plastic that attaches to the bill of the ball cap and offers extended view obstruction forward and to the side. It looks like it could be easy to remove by just sliding it off of the cap’s bill, but attachment could be more difficult. Since it starts as a folded piece of flat plastic, storage should be simple.

We repeatedly attempted to contact the manufacturer by phone and email to request an evaluation sample, but our efforts yielded no response at all. Thus, we were unable to test The Hoody and cannot recommend it.

We found, but did not test, another product called The Super Hood, which is similar to The Hoody. The Super Hood ($21.75 from Aircraft Spruce) is a two-piece affair starting with a simple plastic sun visor like you might wear to the beach.

Then, a much larger visor with sides clips on the sun visor and provides a large view straight ahead; that’s restricted above and to the sides.

While we believe this could be effective, we felt the two-piece arrangement and possible discomfort from the plastic visor (although it appears you could substitute a ball cap) to be suboptimal when compared with the Jiffyhood, ViBAN and even The Best Hood. It reinforces how different these models fit.

Francis IFR Hood, ASA Jiffyhood

The Francis IFR Hood is another offering that’s been around for a long time. It’s extremely effective-perhaps better than most-at blocking views outside while providing a good view of the instrument panel. The $34.95 (from Sporty’s) product is we’ll made of opaque black plastic and is reasonably comfortable, although if you have a large head you might find it’s too tight even at the loosest. It accommodates most glasses.

This hood uses an elastic strap around the head to secure it in place. We were able to slide it up on our head for a view for landing. The Francis Hood is bulky so some thought should go into storing it.

The Jiffyhood is a longtime staple. It’s simply a curved piece of plastic with elastic straps around the head so the plastic protrudes out and down from your forehead much like an extended, curved visor on a ball cap. Since the Jiffyhood doesn’t touch your face, it is fully compatible with glasses. Unfortunately, the Jiffyhood is bulky and we found it difficult to store.

The visor is effective at blocking outside views and can be adjusted to provide a larger view of the instrument panel than most of the others. The elastic band has three snaps, making it length-adjustable for acceptable comfort.

The band seems to be of high quality, but exposure to sun gradually degrades any elastic. We’ve seen older Jiffyhoods where the elastic band was shriveled and had lost its elasticity, but we assume that took years. Take good care of your Jiffyhood (and any device using an elastic band) and the elastic should last a long time.

The first time we tried a Jiffyhood, we fumbled with the strap for some time. Once accustomed to it, however, it works we’ll and the Jiffyhood can be slid up higher on your head for a quick transition to visual conditions. MSRP from ASA for the Jiffyhood is $12.95, making it a bargain.

Viban Hybrid

The ViBAN is a bit of a hybrid between glasses and hood. It fits like glasses, but obscures your vision more like a hood. The marketing information for ViBAN led us to look forward to evaluating them. The reality, however, fell shorter. The product is conceptually quite similar to the Jiffyhood, but the hood is smaller and closer to your head and is worn like glasses rather than using an elastic strap.

First, for pilots who do not wear glasses while flying, ViBANs work quite well. It’s light and comfortable and provides a larger view much like the Jiffyhood. Although the temples have a hook at the end to go behind your ear, ViBANs should still be easy and quick to don and remove, so long as you don’t use the included lanyard.

The ViBAN is also available in a model for pilots who wear glasses. That product is identical except that the nose bridge of the non-glasses model is supplied but not affixed in the model for use with glasses. Thus, the ViBANs must rest on the glasses (not the nose) and the amount of vision occlusion is dependent on the size of the underlying glasses and can’t be further adjusted. Plus, putting the ViBAN over glasses pushed them further from the wearer’s ears such that the temple was too short.

The manufacturer recommends using the lanyard to hold the ViBAN in place, and that was necessary for use with glasses. Without the lanyard there was insufficient view occlusion and a very loose fit that occasionally just fell off.

ViBANs seem durable and comfortable. At $39.95 they’re at the higher priced end, and would work we’ll for a pilot not using eyeglasses. The design is bulky, but the product comes with a semi-rigid case.

Our Choices

Again, any of these products will do the job, and there’s enough variability in fit, form and function that our choices might not necessarily be yours.

Of the glasses types, by a large margin we preferred the ASA Overcasters for those who already wear glasses. If you don’t wear glasses, we liked the Blockalls, but we’d prefer a model where you don’t look through even a clear lens.

Of the hood designs, if you don’t wear glasses the ViBAN would be our top choice. If you do wear glasses, or prefer a pure hood design, we’d recommend the Jiffyhood or, for infrequent use, we prefer The Best Hood.

Dilemma: Hoods and Eyeglasses

Sure, pilots who wear prescription glasses must select a view-limiting device that will accommodate them. The Jiffyhood in the main image is one of several. However, it’s commonly assumed that pilots who don’t wear glasses don’t need a glasses-compatible view-limiting device. In the real world, that’s unrealistic.

Face it, most pilots wear sunglasses when flying. So, while many view-limiting devices block enough outside light that you don’t need sunglasses under the hood, as soon as you take off the hood, you might we’ll want your sunglasses on.

With some of the tested devices being extremely quick to remove-like the top-choice Blockalls-once you do remove them, if it’s bright out you’ll want to put on sunglasses almost immediately. This can probably also be done quickly and easily, but is another and potentially distracting step that you should carefully consider when close to the ground as your eyeballs transition to the view outside.

We’re only raising this as a concern, but we’re not going to make a specific recommendation here. If you don’t wear prescription glasses, you should at least consider what you’ll do if removing a view-limiting device that can’t be worn over sunglasses. This might be fine for you, or you might choose a solution that permits you to always wear your sunglasses with the view-limiting device.

Like many of you past “that age,” we wear progressive (multi-focal) RX glasses. This identified an interesting problem we didn’t anticipate.

Many of the products we reviewed here are overglasses-like Foggles-that fit over your glasses and provide a small unobstructed area through which to view the instruments and little else. With some, however, we found that the unobstructed viewing area of the device didn’t match the area of needed correction of the eyeglasses. In fact, sometimes the desired viewing area of the glasses was in the obstructed area of the overglasses, creating a situation where we couldn’t clearly see the instrument panel.

In some cases, the fit of the hood could be adjusted to minimize or overcome this problem; in other cases it couldn’t. Since the potential for this problem is user-specific, depending on your prescription, lens style, face geometry, etc., we’ve not identified where we had this problem. In other words, we might have had this problem, but you might not.

Nonetheless, you should be aware of this possibility if you wear multi-focal glasses, and see if you can try before you buy. Or simply avoid the overglass-type of view-limiting device altogether and stick with the actual hoods.

Contributor Fran Bowlin is the Editor of sister publication IFR Magazine.

View Limiting Devices Compared

 

model

PRICE

type

eyeglasses

compatible?

durability

COMFORT

easy on?

easy off?

contact

blockalls

$28.95

glasses

NO

GOOD

GOOD

YES

YES

www.blockalls.com

foggles

$19.00

GLASSES

YES

FAIR

FAIR

YES

YES

Various mail order

IFR TRAINING GLASSES

$17.95

GLASSES

SOME

GOOD

GOOD

YES

YES

www.sportys.com

JEPPSHADES

$30.96

GLASSES

MOST

GOOD

GOOD

NO

PIVOT

www.jeppesen.com

overcasters

$19.95

GLASSES

REQUIRED

FAIR (RIVETS)

GOOD

YES

PIVOT

www.asa2fly.com

THE BEST HOOD

$10.00

HOOD

YES

POOR

FAIR

NO

REPOSITION

www.thebesthood.com

FRANCIS IFR HOOD

$34.95

HOOD

MOST

FAIR

GOOD

NO

REPOSITION

Various mail order

JIFFYHOOD

$12.95

HOOD

YES

FAIR

GOOD

NO

REPOSITION

www.asa2fly.com

VIBAN

$39.95

HYBRID

PERHAPS

GOOD

GOOD

YES

YES

www.viban.com

Frank Bowlin, CFI/CFII/MEI, ATP is the editor of IFR Magazine and has contributed to Aviation Consumer and Aviation Safety. Active since VORs were new, he's flown more than 40 types, ranging from B-something airliners down to J-something taildraggers. Today, he mostly flies his Cessna 340A over 100 hours a year for both business and pleasure.