Worried about wearing contact lenses to fly, need suggestions for glasses

6 Replies

Worried about wearing contact lenses to fly, need suggestions for glasses

Posted by Doug Adomatis on Feb 4, 2019 5:51 pm

Hello.  I'm a student pilot and nearsighted.  I'm pretty sure in most states I'm legally blind without corrective lenses.  It does not happen often but... if I'd get smoke or dust in my eyes while wearing contacts, then I'd be in trouble if I was flying.  Without any glasses, I can read a book, I would have to lean forward to see the instruments clearly, and the view out the window would basically be IMC for me.  So, about glasses... any recommendations on the shape of the lenses, tint, polarization...?
Doug Adomatis, Physics Instructor / Student Pilot Greenville Tech Charter High School www.linkedin.com/in/douglasadomatis
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Re: Worried about wearing contact lenses to fly, need suggestions for glasses

Posted by Robert Gardner on Feb 5, 2019 10:42 am

I know nothing about contact lenses, but I wore bifocals for many years before trifocals became necessary. I was fortunate in having an optometrist who was also a pilot, so he could visualize distance from my eyes to the panel or (for trifocals) distance to an approach plate clipped to the yoke. Many airline pilots use upside-down trifocals because of the overhead switches. You should determine the eye-panel distance before going to an optometrist who is not a pilot.

Re: Worried about wearing contact lenses to fly, need suggestions for glasses

Posted by Jimmy Wright on Feb 5, 2019 12:42 pm

Doug; I used contacts for years both as aircrew and as a pilot until I got my eyes fixed through LASIK. I always carried a pair of glasses in my bag, but I never needed them.

Re: Worried about wearing contact lenses to fly, need suggestions for glasses

Posted by Edward Poole on Feb 6, 2019 1:46 pm

As a contact lens wearer I am right there with you.  I currently keep a set of glasses in my flight bag just in case.  Also you have to take into account removing the contacts, that can be tough for some under ideal circumstances, now add in trying to fly a plane and maybe slight turbulence and you have a recipe for poking yourself in the eye😀 Now here is my solution, might work for you, it might not...  I found my regular glasses I wear were too small (lens size) to adequately scan the instrument panel and not move my head to some extent.  I ended up buying a pair that had larger lenses (think circa 1980's) and looked more like a set of aviators without the tint, yea they look pretty ridiculous on my face, but they do the job just fine.  I paired them up with clip on sunglasses for a full on nerd look, they are simply back-up so they seldom if ever come out of the flight bag.  They work very well and I don't need to move my head constantly as I perform the instrument panel scan. 

I also will make a few comments on some "fancy" glasses that did not work for me:  Polarized sunglasses just did not work in the cockpit for me, they tended to blur out or "hide" LCD displays, which basically made any G1000 display or 430W hard to read at certain angles, so I would not recommend that if your flying a glass cockpit.  Also, photochromic lenses are pretty much useless if you have some type of UV protection built into your windscreen, mine would not in a car and were sketchy in the plane.  Older models they were OK, newer models and they would not darken.  

Re: Worried about wearing contact lenses to fly, need suggestions for glasses

Posted by Ronald Levy on Feb 8, 2019 1:43 pm

I've been wearing contact lenses to fly for the last 20 years, and haven't had any problems in flight despite my 20/800 right eye and 20/200 left eye (both correctable to 20/20 with lenses/glasses).  I do carry a set of eyeglasses just in case, but in 6000 hours of flying over those 20 years, I've never had to use them.  Of course, I'm not flying open cockpit biplanes or anything like that, but I've never had a problem in enclosed cockpit light single/twin engine airplanes.

Re: Worried about wearing contact lenses to fly, need suggestions for glasses

Posted by Doug Adomatis on Feb 9, 2019 7:01 am

Thank you all for the suggestions, especially appreciate Poole's comment about how small lenses require you to move the head around to see the entire instrument panel.  Based on what everyone has said, I just do like I do in the car and carry a spare pair of "nerd" glasses.  
Doug Adomatis, Physics Instructor / Student Pilot Greenville Tech Charter High School www.linkedin.com/in/douglasadomatis

Re: Worried about wearing contact lenses to fly, need suggestions for glasses

Posted by Richard Campbell on Feb 11, 2019 10:11 am

Just another contact lens pilot chiming in with no problems.  I just carry a spare set of glasses in the flight bag.

I will echo what Poole said - do not ever use polarized glasses in the cockpit.  It interferes with electronic displays which are almost always polarized.