The windshield in the aircraft cockpit is crucial for standard flight operations, providing pilots a visual of the direction that they are heading. While many instruments are present to enable control over directions, speed, etc., maintaining sight out of the aircraft is extremely important for basic collision avoidance and other processes. As the aircraft windshield is one of the only structures separating pilots within the flight deck from below freezing air, a lack of oxygen, and other various hazards, such parts are rigorously designed. In this blog, we will discuss the flight deck cockpit windshield in detail, allowing you to best understand their importance and features.
In general, an aircraft windshield will serve two important purposes. For one, the windshield guards personnel from the unsafe conditions of the surrounding atmosphere, and provides them with the ability to see out of the vehicle. Windshields are often subject to countless stressors, having the chance of becoming damaged due to pressure, temperature control, bird collisions, harsh chemicals such as jet fuel, contaminants, and lightning strikes. As a result, their construction is quite thorough.
Oftentimes, the windshield will be composed of a laminated structure that features multiple layers of glass, plastics such as acrylic or polycarbonate, or combination materials that are bonded with polymeric materials. With such construction, the aircraft windshield can remain strong in the face of extreme stressors, all while remaining at a low weight that benefits aerodynamics and fuel efficiency. The face ply of the windshield assembly is the most abused, taking on the brunt of weather, scratching, impacts, deterioration, electrical faults due to the anti-icing system, and more.
Regardless of whether an aircraft is designed for short range travel or long distances, all feature an aircraft windscreen of the same thickness range. Generally, this section is between 1.0 and 1.2 inches, that of which far surpasses the 0.23 inch average of automobiles. The aircraft windscreen or windshield is also constructed with glass-faced acrylic and a urethane layer. Each layer is specifically constructed with anti-ice and anti-fog systems.
For the construction of windshields, multilayer plastic construction is often employed. With such procedures, two thick layers of acrylic or hard plastic are placed around a layer of polyvinyl butyral (PVB) which ensures thermal stress relief. When airplane window parts become scratched, polishing may be used to return surfaces to a clear state. If polishing is carried out, however, a thickness measurement must be conducted to check whether the minimum thickness is still met or not. The PVB layer is also measured for thickness, and gauges such as the 38 DL Plus are commonly used.
Depending upon the aircraft and its windshield, fasteners or clamping systems may be used for security. For many Airbus models, clamping is used while no bolt holes are present. For Boeing aircraft, meanwhile, bolted-in designs are quite common. Generally, bolting ensures that the window becomes an integral part of the overall structure, allowing for loads to be transmitted through the airplane window. With clamping, on the other hand, the windshield must be isolated from loads. As a result, both options are useful and will generally vary with different aviation part manufacturers.
To prevent issues such as a build up of moisture, fogging, and other view obstructions, coatings, heaters, and anti-icing systems are common. Blunt force resulting from a bird strike is also a concern, and thus bird strike resistance is implemented for critical components. If cracking occurs, windshields implement specific aerodynamic seal components and systems to ensure that the damage is only located on the outer ply. If damage occurs, it is crucial that the aircraft windshield is either repaired or replaced as soon as possible for continued safety.
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