What Type of Glass Is Used for Aircraft Cockpit Windows?
Aircraft are constructed with numerous materials that are usually durable, lightweight in composition, weather resistant, and corrosion resistant. Generally, materials are selected with safety specifications in mind, ensuring that various aircraft parts, such as the fuselage, engines, landing gear, and controls can be relied upon with ease. Aircraft cockpit windows are just one example of aircraft components that require a specific design.
While cockpit windows may look similar to standard panes of glass, they are actually made of an entirely different material. Most aircraft utilize stretched acrylic glass for airplane cockpit windows. Stretched acrylic is characterized as a lightweight material that is produced by a few global suppliers like GKN. GKN is recognized for manufacturing stretched acrylic aircraft windows for well-known aircraft, such as the Boeing 737 and the Boeing 787.
Stretched acrylic is made of acrylic that has been physically stretched and molded into panes. This effect provides better resistance to crazing, reduced crack propagation, and improved impact resistance, all of which are optimal characteristics for aircraft windows. The stretched acrylic panes are fitted with a layer of ordinary glass over them, and there may also be a layer of urethane between the stretched acrylic and glass.
It is important to note that cockpit windows will often feature a hydrophobic coating. These coatings are finishes that repel moisture, oils, and other liquids. Today, pilots navigate aircraft primarily with the help of digital instruments, but they still need to see out of the cockpit windows. Without a hydrophobic coating, the cockpit windows can fog up, restricting the pilot’s visibility. This coating can protect against this by minimizing the moisture on them.
Cabin windows are the windows on the side of an airplane, allowing passengers to look outside during flight. They also take advantage of stretched acrylic. That being said, the majority of these windows consist of several panes of stretched acrylic. Additionally, they feature an inner, middle, and outer pane, all of which are made of this material. Each pane is separated and this design acts as a safeguard in the event of a breach.
Even if the inner or outer pane is breached, the last pane will remain intact. As such, the aircraft should maintain cabin pressure. Like cockpit windows, cabin windows also feature a hydrophobic coating. Finally, though rare, bird strikes present a major issue for pilots, airlines, and manufacturers. As such, windows are subjected to rigorous testing. As per US federal regulations, window panes are required to withstand, without penetration, the impact of a four-pound bird when the aircraft speed is equal to 340 knots.
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