Aircraft Windows and Their Design
Due to the risk that a failure poses to the passengers and crew of an aircraft, the windows mounted in an aircraft’s fuselage are exhaustively designed and tested against any possible dangers they may face. The Federal Aviation Administration’s Advisory Circular 25.775-1 mandates that aircraft windows must undergo the same level of strength and resilience testing as other parts of the fuselage, like the wings and engines.
Among the most common dangers aircraft face when in flight are bird-strikes, which typically occur when aircraft are operating at the same altitude that birds fly at, which is typically during take-off and landing. The famous Miracle on the Hudson, US Airways Flight 1549, occurred when a flock of geese struck the aircraft and damaged its engines, for instance. Therefore, windows are tested thoroughly against the possibility of a bird-strike, with simulated tests conducted on the ground long before the design is ever certified for operations.
Windows also need to be tested against chemicals, to ensure that their strength and integrity will not be compromised by exposure. De-icing fluid, hydraulic fluid, jet fuel, gas fumes, and more are all fluids that need to be tested against to guarantee that the window can resist them. Their frames must also be resistant to erosion and rust.
Most aircraft windows in the passenger cabin are made with a double layer. This is to ensure that if something compromises the outer window during the flight, the inner layer can withstand the pressure and environment outside. Windshields are fastened in place with bolts or with a clamping system, with the fastener used dependent on the manufacturer.
Ten years is the average lifespan of an aircraft window, but sometimes a window will be changed due to cracks, deformation, or other forms of damage. Pilots will typically have a wide degree of influence over when windows in the cockpit are replaced. After all, they have to sit behind them!
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