Aircraft windows are an important element of the fuselage that provide crew members and passengers a view of the outside atmosphere and allow for safety and comfort to be upheld with ease. With the intensive atmospheric conditions present in the altitude range aircraft typically travel at, airplane windows have to be designed with ample integrity and strength. In this blog, we will discuss how airplane windows are designed and the various materials that make them up.
Unlike typical windows that are made from standard glass materials, aircraft cabin window assemblies are constructed from plastics and special polymers. Furthermore, multiple layers of material are overlaid atop of one another to increase the overall strength and reliability of each window. If a cabin window was designed from glass, it would quickly shatter as soon as the extreme pressures set in at higher altitudes. As such, it is not a viable material with its lack of pressure resistance.
As stated before, airplane windows are made from multiple layers of materials, and each of these layers has a specific name and role. Generally, the primary elements of an aircraft window assembly include the passenger window frame, outer windowpane, combined seal, middle window pane, and scratch pane. The outer pane remains flush with the fuselage, and it is often the most robust section that passengers cannot interact with. Meanwhile, the middle window pane serves to equalize pressure, featuring a small breather hole that allows cabin air to escape into the pocket. This is highly beneficial as it forces the outer window pane to take the brunt of the load at a slow pace that avoids losses in integrity. Lastly, the most inner pane is the scratch pane, and it is the thinnest of the assembly as it is simply a non-structural element that prevents passengers from scratching windows.
When traversing wetter climates where fog, rain, or other moisture is present, it is important that visuals are not lost. Often, airplane window exteriors are equipped with an anti-fog system in the form of coatings that maintain clarity. Anti-ice coatings are also extremely important as ice deposits can detract from aerodynamics through the disruption of airflow and generation of drag. While cabin windows are provided the ability to deter loss of visuals, flight deck windshields feature the most robust systems for the means of bolstering a pilot’s abilities to maintain sight out of the aircraft.
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