If you've been flying RC for longer than two weeks, it is a safe bet that you've been asked "How far away can you control your model?" Our standard answer to that question is "further than you can see it... This response isn't really intended to be "smart alecky", It's just a simple fact. Successful RC piloting depends on visual feedback. If you can't see your model, and accurately interpret what it is doing, then you are out of control. So obviously your eyesight is an important part of what the engineers call as "feedback loop". Your eyes are just as important as the high resolution of your radio system, as the precise mechanical operation of your control surfaces, etc.
We RC modelers are probably the worst for the demands that we put on our eyes. There are hundreds of outdoor sports where sunglasses can be a big help. But how many of them involve non-stop staring directly into the glare filled sky? Duck and goose hunting comes to mind. Even most full size pilots have a roof over their heads to shade their eyes. But we RC'ers are out there, squinting up a storm, trying to control fast moving objects past a background of clouds, haze, and direct sun. Do you thiink that maybe good quality eye protection might be a good thing?
If you have ever been to a major flying event, or a large RC model trade show, you've probably seen Bruce Holden, his lovely wife Esther, or their East Coast counterpart Jerry Thomas. The Zurich Sunglasses booth is a regular part of any event that involves a lot of wings. And you may be familiar with the "traditional" line of Zurich sunglasses. They have offered conventional style sunglasses , as well as the wrap-around style that will go over your prescription glasses for many years. The Zurich sunglasses that you are probably familiar with are molded from General Electric Lexan, which is an extremely tough polycarbonate plastic. (In fact, some models of the Zurich glasses have been proven to be bullet and shotgun pellet "proof"). The lenses are a minimum of 2.5 millimeters thick, and are built in a wrap-around configuration to assure maximum peripheral vision. The wrap-around design also blocks wind and dust.
But recently, they have introduced a new offering that is quite unusual. Good looking, stylish wrap-around sunglasses, custom ground to your eyeglass prescription, with the same famous Zurich style glare reduction, strength, and scratch resistance.
Bruce Holden discovered the Extreme Glare (or " Z-XG") technology in Switzerland. He licensed that technology and now manufactures the line of sunglasses in the United States. The XG formulation blocks 100% of ultraviolet radiation (both UV A and UV B). Ultraviolet rays can cause cataracts, and directly damage the retinas in your eyes. The Extreme Glare lenses also block 65% of infrared rays, and 100% of side glare and reflected light.
One important note is that the Extreme Glare Sunglasses are NOT polarized. This is a good thing, as polarization can create its own set of problems. It can make seeing things like cell phone screens, GPS screens and other types of instruments very difficult. We've got an airline pilot friend whose wife bought him a pair of very fancy, very expensive sunglasses. The first time he sat in the cockpit of an airliner, he literally could not see through the windshield. The polarization made the laminated, shatter proof windshield look like a brightly colored, psychedelic light show. At the first stop on that trip he had to go to the newsstand and buy a cheap pair of sunglasses to use for the rest of the trip.
So what is involved in getting a set of the Extreme Glare Sunglasses' prescription glasses? First, you'll need a prescription for your existing glasses. The Extreme Glare lenses are available in single vision, bi-focal, tri-focal or multi-local versions. Obviously, an up-to-date, accurate prescription is going to give you the best result. Bruce, at Zurich, has no way of knowing what your actual vision challenges might be, so he needs to depend on the accuracy of your prescription. If you have a pair of frames that you really like, Zurich can make their "Extreme Glare" lenses to fit them. They also offer Serengeti brand metal frames (which are a more traditional "Pilot" style sunglass) or Bollé molded plastic frames. Your editor chose the Bollé King style. These are a nice, aerodynamic wrap-around design which are great for flying in windy conditions (slope soaring, for example...). Bollé Recoil and Spiral styles are also available.
Beyond the frame style selection, there are some additional choices. The actual tint of the lenses are available in medium gray, dark gray, medium rose or dark rose. According to the Zurich websites, the rose tint is for high definition, low light, hazy and dark weather days. For an in-depth look at this advanced technology as well as shop for Extreme Glare Sunglasses glasses, visit www.z-xg.com.
Choosing the tint is a matter of personal choice, as to how "dark" the sunglasses are. There is also a colored coating that is applied to the front surface of the lenses. This front coating is purely for appearance and has no effect on what you see through the lens. The color coatings available are teal, magenta and emerald.
OK...enough with the specifications and variations. Let's get down to where the rubber meets the road...or the glasses meet the sky. Your editor's Bollé King style frames, with dark gray lenses and blue front coating arrived in about two weeks after the prescription sheet was mailed in. My glasses are bifocal style (so I can read the numbers on my programmable transmitters, and see the screws to assemble my models). They come in a nice, form fitted canvas case that is equipped with a heavy duty plastic snap (to attach the case to your belt loops, etc.). Inside the case is a nice quality, very soft fabric cleaning cloth. Zurich cautions you to NOT use any sort of paper product (paper towels, Kleenex, etc.) for cleaning the glasses. Those type products are abrasive and can scratch your lenses in time.
The detail of the budding trees, the power lines and the clouds in the sky was noticeably sharper than what I was anticipating. I have been wearing the large, "over my glasses Zurich goggles with my prescription glasses for flying and I was used to that view of the world. I have to say that by combining the Bollé King technology with my eyeglass prescription in one lens, that the results are significantly better.
One trick that I learned from Jerry Thomas, the very entertaining East Coast rep for Zurich, is to look at the clouds in the sky and then raise the glasses out of the field of view, and then lower them back down. Without the glasses, the high cirrus clouds looked just like bands of white. With the glasses in place, I could see the variations in density in the clouds, and the actual texture of the white bands. After wearing the new glasses outside for a few minutes, I could actually feel my eyes relax. With the wrap around design of the Bollé frames, I had full peripheral vision. The small bi-focal panels that are inset into the front of the lenses allowed me to easily read my cell phone, printed pages, etc. My original plan was to keep the new glasses in my flight tool box and just use them for flying. I'm so impressed with the glasses that I'm going to keep them in the overhead compartment in my Chevy Blazer, so that I can wear them while driving as well. Although the Extreme Glare sunglasses are very well suited for our RC flying needs, they are also great for outdoor sports and activities like skiing, fishing, motorcycling and water skiing. Having a quality pair of sunglasses, with the corrective prescription ground into the lenses has proven to be a great investment...not only for flying models, but for all outdoor activities.