The standard sun visors found in most older airplanes find their design origins in cars from the 1950s. They just dont cut it when youre boring into the setting sun on a westerly heading. These older visors get the sun out of your eyes, but they also block your view of any traffic or obstacles you clearly want to avoid.
As it always seems to, the aftermarket has provided a better solution in the form of several transparent sun visor products made for a variety of general aviation airplanes. The products range from simple slap-on sun shades to suction-cup-mounted devices to higher-end units that replace outright the original sun visor. Prices vary from just a few dollars for the floppy slap-on shades to several hundred for a pair of PMAd replacements. For this report, well concentrate on the higher end products, with a nod to the portable gadgets.
Big is Better
If theres one thing we learned in testing the different transparent sun visors is that bigger is definitely better. A bigger shade blocks more of the sun and glare,
making it easier to see a complete picture out the window without having to squint. Bigger shades and visors also make the cockpit cooler. If youre thinking about a mounted visor, buy the biggest you can find.
We tried two types of mounted visors, the well-known Rosen product and a competing, less expensive brand called UltraVisor. Both are meant to be improved replacements for factory supplied visors in many aircraft.
The FAA-approved UltraVisors are available for many Cessna, Beechcraft and Piper models and range in price from $148.75 to $216.95.
The STC/PMAd Rosen systems are available for too many aircraft to list here (visit www.rosenvisor.com/aviation to view the list); prices start at $223.95, with most visors for GA aircraft priced under $350 from several retailers. Both systems come with a PMA/STC approval sheet be sure to stuff this paperwork into your aircraft maintenance logbook.
We also tried to get a pair of what are marketed as “Clear View” replacement visors ($289.95 from Aircraft Spruce) made by Ayers Inc., of Carlsbad, California, but the company never responded to our repeated requests.
All of the Clear View visor distributors we contacted told us they dont stock this product; its a special-order item thats shipped directly from Ayers. The FAAs STC database shows that the three-axis, 12- by 8.75-inch Clear View sun visor is approved for Beechcraft Bonanzas, Barons and Travel Airs. Aircraft Spruce and other vendors say that Clear View systems for Cessna, Piper and other Beechcraft airplanes will soon be available pending STC approval, although this could not be confirmed with Ayers.
Rosen vs. UltraVisor
The mounted replacement visors require the most time and effort to install, not that its a big job. We borrowed a set for a Cessna 182 that already had a Rosen on one side. Installing them requires removing the old bracket and mounting a new
one with supplied hardware. Apart from a contorted working position and a stubborn nutplate, the Rosens installed without a hitch. Rosen supplies an Allen wrench for the mounting capscrews, but the job would have gone quicker if we had had a socket drive with an Allen bit.
Some airplanes the Cessna 152 for instance may require a little A&P help to install a rivnut. And Rosen says the job will take longer in a Cessna 210 because its a more complex installation. Rosen estimates itll take 1.5 hours to install new visors in the 210. A note to Piper owners: Some models have performance data printed on the back of the visor, so if you use that, reproduce it on paper.
Rosen sells an optional third-axis kit for its sun visor, which allows it to pivot to the nearly vertical. We tried this gadget too and found installation was a snap. Fortunately, Piper owners can skip this step these Rosen visors come standard with
the third-axis feature.
The UltraVisor we tried in the 182 took less than 10 minutes to install, as it uses the airplanes existing visor bracket. Simply loosen the screw securing the visor clip, slide out the old visor, slide in the UltraVisor and then re-tighten the screw. If the visors dont pivot easily, the corroded mounting clip can be sanded with 150-grit paper, although our installation didnt require this. For both Rosen and UltraVisor installations, make sure youve got a stubby screwdriver handy to fit in the tight space near the windshield.
Performance wise, the Rosens beat the UltraVisors hands down, in our opinion. In the 182, theyre larger and essentially cover the entire windshield area. They also slide on tracks for lateral adjustment and, with the third-axis mount, they can cover the side windows or block glare from any angle. Theyre exceptionally well made of black anodized aluminum, with high-quality fasteners. Because of the see-through darkened acrylic, the UltraVisor is clearly a step up from stock visors. But in our view, they arent quite large enough to do the job.
We also tried some portable, stick- or slap-on type visors. From Sportys, we borrowed a 5.5- by 8.5-inch slap-on panel ($4.50) and the $6.95 “extra large” 8.5- by 11-inch version. These cling to the windshield by static electricity and are dark enough to block glare while providing good transparency. Dont bother with the small version; for a couple of bucks, the larger one works better.
Sportys also has a 14- by 3.5-inch suction-cup mounted product for $79.95 for a pair. The suction cups hold the visor to a flat or curved surface securely and a hinge allows them to flip up. These worked well enough but at 3.5 inches, theyre too narrow for our tastes. Wed prefer the larger slap-on versions.
Rosen makes a suction-cup mounted transparent sun shade ($14.95 from Sportys) that measures 14.25 by 17.5 nches and can be compactly folded into a circular carry bag. This worked well, allowing traffic to be seen through it, while cutting the glare and cooling the cabin.
Just for comparison, we tried a 13- by 10-inch automotive slap-on sun shade,
dubbed Sticky Shade, that we picked up at a Target Department Store for $5.99. You get what you pay for. It worked well enough but it clings to both itself and the window, making it a nuisance to store. Sportys slap-on visors are a better choice, in our view. But over time, all of the slap-ons seem to lose their stickiness or fold over on themselves. But theyre cheap enough to replace occasionally.
If budget isnt a concern, Rosen products are our top choice. Theyre among the most well-made products of any kind weve tested, theyre easy to install and their large size makes them highly effective. Yes, they cost more than UltraVisors, but they also do more. And by all means, buy the third-axis bracket or add it to Rosens you may already have.
UltraVisors are a good budget choice to replace ratty old stock visors. They would be much better, in our view, if the visors themselves were two or three inches wider. As it is, their dimensions still allow a lot of glare that the Rosens nicely block.
If you need a portable or slap-on shade, go with the Rosen mesh screen or the large slap-on from Sportys. Dont bother with anything smaller; they just arent effective.