Transitions For Pilots: Cabin, Headset Friendly

The latest aviator sunglasses from Flying Eyes include bifocal, gradient and photochromic lens options. We wish for more styling options.

I thought the original Flying Eyes Hawk pilot sunglasses, designed with headset-friendly webbed temples, had enough utility to justify the $170 price, but for many flights they were off my head more than they were on. Thats because I found the lenses to be too dark, even in partly cloudy conditions.

I just happened to be looking for prescription sunglasses that can serve flying missions, plus a variety of high-impact adventure sports. Ready to pull the trigger on a new pair of WileyX glasses, I instead invested in the latest Flying Eyes with transitions lenses to see if they could handle my abuse and how they perform in the cockpit. Heres a field report.

The second generation Flying Eyes can be fitted with a variety of lenses. This includes gradient tint and non-prescription bifocal, plus traditional solid tint and even polarized lenses, which generally dont work well with certain avionics displays. The glasses come with shatter-resistant polycarbonate lenses with a scratch- and smudge-resistant Claris HD coating.

Flying Eyes works with the ABB Optical Group digital eye lab and provides the glasses with your prescription, so you wont have to send them out for modification yourself. You will need to have your optician measure pupillary distance and fitting height. That required a second visit to my optician-and a fee of $50-since these specifications werent written on my prescription.

My glasses arrived one week after submitting the order, and they included my prescription (Im near-sighted) with the Transitions Optical photochromic lens option. Flying Eyes says the Transitions XTRActive is the only photochromic technology that will work effectively in cabin lighting. I agree. My previous light-adaptive lenses never lightened enough in a dark cabin, but the Flying Eyes turned completely clear in a dark cabin and worked extremely well with color panel displays. I wore them while installing the cabin cover on the dark ramp and when driving home.

The Flying Eyes have Resilamide frames made from advanced polymers, lending to flexibility, durability and lighter weight than many other frames. The only nit I have is the lack of available styling options.

The Hawk frames come with two sets of removable temples, in addition to the webbed head strap. The standard temples are 5 millimeters thick, while the micro-thin temples are 1 millimeter thick. Both varieties have enough flex to not put uncomfortable tension on the side of the head. In fact, I found the micro-thin temples comfortable enough to not even use the webbed strap. Plus I liked the ability to take the glasses off and put them back on without removing the headset. I wore a Lightspeed Sierra and AKG AV100.

The overall design has also been improved, making it easier to quickly remove and swap the temples. Simply squeeze the buttons, release the temples from the frames and snap the new temples in. The headstrap is removed and installed the same way. A lightweight cinch holds the headstrap in place, while keeping any excess on the back of the head. I wear a short haircut and the strap never tugged at the hair, although it did make me itchy.

Non-prescription Hawks start at $169, nonprescription bifocals are $189. Prescription options start at $336. If you an own an original Hawk model, basic prescription lenses can be fitted in them for $351, including shipping both ways.

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Editor in Chief Larry Anglisano has been a staple at Aviation Consumer since 1995. An active land, sea and glider pilot, Larry has over 30 years’ experience as an avionics repairman and flight test pilot. He’s the editorial director overseeing sister publications Aviation Safety magazine, IFR magazine and is a regular contributor to KITPLANES magazine with his Avionics Bootcamp column.