A Review of
When you learn to fly, one of the first things the Certified Flight Instructor teaches you is to keep your eyes moving at all time for other airplanes. While mid-air collisions are extremely rare, it is equally rare for pilots and their passengers to walk away from these kinds of violent crashes. It is this constant "scan" of the sky in front of and all around you that is a skill developed by all pilots, and after just a few hours of training, it becomes second nature.
While most of today's aviation fleet carries transponders to let ATC identify their location relative to other aircraft nearby, not all planes are in radio communication with an ATC facility, especially outside of busy terminal areas. Since flying into busy airspace around major metropolitan areas require both an altitude encoding transponder AND communication with ATC, this means that all pilots are "talking" to ATC, and are being ID'ed as a blip on his/her screen showing altitude, direction and airspeed. It is this data that ATC uses to keep all aircraft separated, but...
Outside of these busy areas, when operating around "uncontrolled" airports, having a "mode C" transponder and being in communications with ATC is not required, and pilots are responsible for their own separation for other traffic. To accomplish this, pilots have a procedure called simply enough, "see and avoid". But many aircraft in today's general aviation fleet have limited view when flying into the sun, and have sunvisors that resemble those in your car. These solid visors literally block the sun, but they also can block a pilot's view to see the oncoming traffic. This dangerous situation makes "seeing" other traffic harder in certain conditions, which makes that traffic harder to avoid.To remedy this situation, certain manufacturers like Kingman, Arizona's Ultravisor offer high-grade, optically-pure tinted lexan sunvisors for nearly all models of Cessna, Piper and Beechcraft aircraft. The concept is simple: When flying into the sun, a tinted but clear visor blocks the sun's damaging rays but continues to allow forward and upward vision to see – and avoid – traffic.
Recently, I installed a set of Ultravisor tinted sunvisors into my 1964 Piper Cherokee 235, and went flying into the sun to see how they worked. Here is an honest review of both the installation procedure and the performance:
Installation: Up front, I will admit to not being a mechanic at all, so I knew that the installation of ANY aircraft parts would have to be bonehead simple for me to accomplish without damaging the plane. I was not about to start drilling holes in the interior, nor was I hoping to have to modify anything to use these visors. I am happy to report that the installation could not have been easier, and the attractive black visor mounting bracket bolted perfectly into the existing hole in the windshield center post. After the mount was secure, both right and left visor were bolted into place easily, and fit exactly fine in both windows. I liked the fact that the underside mounting hardware that holds the visor to the mount has the clean, white Ultravisor logo on it, adding an air of sophistication to the installation. Total time to install: 30 minutes.Conclusion: There are other manufacturers of clear, tinted aircraft sunvisors out there, but at under $150 for a set, these Ultravisors offer all the improved vision performance I could ask for, and allows me to now "see and avoid" far better then without them. And unlike the worn old solid visors in many GA planes, these Ultravisors stay firmly in the up position out of the way until needed. An added bonus is that while in the up position, the tinted visors really shade the cockpit from the sun, making it easy to fly without sunglasses.
Performance: I have flown many older rental aircraft over the years, including many that had shabby, loose solid visors. These worn out visors were notorious for slipping down in flight due to vibration, partially blocking forward view. So I was hoping that the new Ultravisors would stay put out of my field of vision until needed. To test the visors, I flew out of Eugene, Oregon in the late afternoon to the east for 30 miles. I purposely waited until I had a clear day, knowing that the bright sun setting to the west of the field would making seeing the airport and traffic hard when arriving from the east. After turning back inbound towards the airport, I immediately saw the need for using the visors. The setting sun made it impossible to pick out EUG in the haze, and seeing other traffic would have been difficult. So I quickly pulled down both Ultravisors and was instantly pleased with what I saw. Because of the large size of these visors, my entire forward field of vision was covered in a medium-dark gray tint that greatly reduced glare and made it very easy to pick out the airport.
Since I wear prescription glasses, flying with sunglasses can be a hassle, but when the Ultravisors were down, it was like looking through an expensive pair of aviator's sunglasses. Upon turning onto my base leg, the added vision that came from reduce glare allowed me to easily see a regional jet inbound to the parallel runway. Without the visors, finding the airport would have been harder, and seeing the inbound traffic might have been impossible until it was too late.
I highly recommend these visors as an STC replacement for any Piper, Cessna or Beechcraft owner.