Like any other part of an aircraft, the windows, especially the windshield, require careful maintenance. The pilot must have a clear and unobstructed view through the windshield in order to properly monitor conditions on the horizon, avoid debris, and carry out their general flight duties. Using the proper cleaning products and techniques, as well as understanding a bit about the material you are working with, will help keep your aircraft windows and windshield look and perform as good as new. In this blog, we will discuss the basics of aircraft window and windshield maintenance.
Most aircraft windows are made from acrylic plastic, which is scratchable. Perhaps the most important part of aircraft window care is preventing preventable scratches and properly addressing those that are not preventable. When cleaning a window, it is always advisable to remove as much dirt without physically touching the surface. This means coating the surface with water or a soap/water mixture and allowing it to soak into the dirt and bug residue. If rubbing is still needed, it should be done lightly with your bare hand. Following a second flushing with water, dry the windshield with a soft, clean cloth and finish with a cleaner or polish.
When using cleaners/polishes, be sure to use one that is intended for use on acrylic plastics. Things like glass cleaner or furniture polish are not appropriate for use on aircraft windows and can ultimately prove to be detrimental. Most types of glass cleaners contain ammonia, which should never be used on acrylic plastics. Ammonia will introduce thousands of microscopic cracks. Furniture polish is safer, but its long-term effects are not entirely understood and buildup of this polish can produce smears that are hard to remove.
Generally speaking, there are three types of cleaning/polishing products available: non-abrasive liquid sprays (in pumps or aerosols), non-abrasive creams, and mildly-abrasive creams. Liquid sprays and non-abrasive creams may have scratch filling properties, and most mildly-abrasive creams feature scratch removing properties. The type of care your window needs will ultimately decide which product is best for you.
There are two common problems that cause aircraft windshields to require maintenance: in-flight cracking and cloudy areas, burn marks, or bubbles. In-flight cracking occurs when moisture breaks through the aerodynamic seal and causes heat-coating problems that lead to cracking of the window’s outer ply. Exposure to both wind and rain can compromise an aircraft’s seals, so frequent inspections are needed to avoid cracking. Cloudy areas, commonly found in the upper corner of the window, are another sign of moisture penetration. Burn marks and bubbles are an indication that the window is degrading and should be replaced soon.
Most aircraft manufacturers will provide clear guidelines for the maintenance of your aircraft’s windows. They will also lay out a schedule of inspections that will help determine if the windows need repair or replacement. It may be easy to overlook how important proper care for your windows can be, but regular maintenance will ensure that your aircraft windows last as long as intended and serve you well flight after flight.
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