Even the tiniest malfunction or failure in an aircraft’s window structure can be dangerous for the passengers and crew of the aircraft. Therefore, aircraft windows are just as tightly regulated as the rest of the airframe. The Federal Aviation Administration’s Advisory Circular 25.775-1 states that aircraft windows must undergo the same level of strength and resilience testing as other parts of the fuselage, like the wings and engines.
Windows are tested exhaustively against every possible threat they can face. Bird-strikes, for example, are a common concern during takeoff and landing, when the aircraft is operating at the same altitudes that birds fly at. 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, aircraft 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 must also 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.
The average aircraft window has a lifespan of roughly ten years. Sometimes, a window will be changed due to cracks, deformation, or other forms of damage, with the pilots of the aircraft having a great deal of say whether the deck windshields should be changed or not. After all, they’re the ones sitting behind it!
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