When flying into the sun, a good practice is to change
course, or sometimes altitude, frequently,
all the while making constant
good, but they require
the sort of upper-cockpit structure
that many of us flying ultralights and lightplanes
just don’t have. For those who do have at least a
surface that can serve as a platform for a visor of
some sort, there are removable, suction-cup-
attached glare reducers that sell for under $10.
Helmets sometimes come with sun visors.
Even ones that don’t can be adapted. I once converted a flip-down clear face shield to sun-visor
duty by just laying a couple of strips of black electrical tape along the bottom edge of the clear
plastic. When partly lowered, the tape served
effectively as a sun shield. Fully lowered, it went
back to being a plain face shield.
The bill of a cap serves well, too, provided your
cockpit isn’t so open that a cap will be blown off.
The cockpit on my Quicksilver GT-400 shields me
from the wind from the front, but it is open on the
sides, so a cap works fine for me, except at very
low angles of sun. A square of dark cloth could be
attached with Velcro to the side of the bill to hang
down like a mini-visor.
The gizmo approach—caps, glare-reducers,
and sun visors—just makes it easier for the pilot
to look close to the sun. They do nothing to reduce
the hazard from other aircraft that are exactly
up-sun and converging. When flying into the sun,
a good practice is to change course, or sometimes
altitude, frequently, all the while making constant
Still, it’s too bad they don’t make those cool
World War II goggles anymore.
Another option for westward-bound pilots at
as far as forced-landing
places go—so my late-afternoon flying generally
has to be planned so I’m coming from some quad-
rant that will leave the sun to one side when
homeward-bound at the end of the day.
the end of the day is to “tack” up-sun, like a sail-
boat going into the wind, keeping the sun well to
one side of your heading.
It’s also often possible, and even desirable, to
wait until a few minutes after sundown to head
home, when there’s still plenty of light and the
entire western horizon is brightly lit and will
reveal, rather than conceal, other aircraft.
However, there’s a limited amount of time available to reach the home field before serious
darkness sets in. (Except for pilots in very high
latitudes in summertime.)
HARDWARE: PLAIN AND FANCY
In practice, we usually make do with shielding our
eyes with a hand, sunglasses, flip-up polarized
clip-ons, a sun visor, or the bill of a cap. Let’s take
these one at a time. The hand is reliable and
always available, but the attached arm starts to
tire. Plus, taking one hand away from flying isn’t
always a good idea.
Sunglasses don’t allow looking directly at the
sun, but they do cut down on glare near the sun,
as do clip-ons. Polarized lenses are good, but they
have the drawback of making it difficult to read
LCD displays inside the cockpit. Goggles used by
welders can be found for about $10 and might
work about as well as those World War II goggles
mentioned above. Automotive-style sun visors are
Dave Matheny is a private pilot and an FAA ground
instructor. He has been flying light aircraft, including
ultralights, for almost 30 years. He can be reached at