With the arrival of summer comes the need for many pilots to shake off the rust, and get back into the air in their trusty airplanes. They have put the plane through annual, and it came out with a clean bill of health. With their freshly annualed plane, they are ready to get back into the air, and have fun.
WAIT A SECOND. The brightness that comes with those clear summer days can spell trouble if you haven’t taken care of your airplane’s windows properly. Over the years, the sun will attack the Plexiglas used in aircraft windows. That attack, combined with the millions and millions of bug impacts, rain impacts, and just plain dirt, can combine to make your airplane’s windows more hazy than clear.
AT TIMES, IT IS JUST TOO NICE TO STOP AND CLEAN THE WINDOWS. After all, we would all rather be flying than spending time out on the stepladder trying to get all the specs of stuff off of our windows. However, that approach may mean you are taking a dangerous chance of having a close encounter of the worst kind — with a fellow pilot in the air… besides, you’re missing out on a beautiful view.
OUR PILOT WAS IN JUST SUCH A HURRY. It was just too nice outside, and he was itching to fly. When he arrived at the airport, he found his plane in reasonably decent condition. The fuel tanks were full, the oil was full, and the preflight went off without so much as a hitch. Everything looked great until he climbed into the pilot’s seat, and got ready to start the engine.
WHEN HE DID, he noticed the windows were dirty. I don’t mean a little dirty, like when you can see a spot or two here or there — I mean really, really dirty… IMC dirty. When the plane was turned into the sun, the window was nearly opaque; it actually became more white than clear.
STILL, OUR PILOT WANTED TO GET FLYING, so he ‘worked around‘ the problem. He lined the plane up on the runway, and started his takeoff roll. Everything worked well through the rotation and climb out. As our pilot turned left in the pattern, the sun again struck his window, and he was flying nearly blind. To be honest, the effect was like having someone drape a sheet over the window — he could see out, just not very well.
TROUBLE ARRIVED… IN THE FORM OF ANOTHER PLANE, which was entering the traffic pattern. Our pilot heard the other on Unicom, and started to ‘look‘ for him. He looked and he looked, but still couldn’t see the plane. Finally, the other pilot announced he was breaking off his approach to the pattern because — you probably already guessed it — our pilot’s plane was approaching too close to him!
OUR PILOT COULDN’T SEE the other plane. Fortunately, the other plane could see him, and turned to avoid the close encounter. Had both pilots exercised their will to fly over safety, this story could have had a far less happy ending.
KEEP YOUR WINDOWS CLEAN. This goes beyond the occasional washing of the windows. Remember: When bugs build up on your windows, they can create small blind spots — blind spots that can hide an approaching airplane! Clear the bugs off your windows on a regular basis to keep your field of vision at its maximum.
WHEN WINDOWS GET HAZED, take them to a window specialist to see if they can be repaired. Repairs include using special abrasive cleaners and even super-fine sandpaper to remove surface scratches that cause crazing. This work isn’t cheap, but it beats replacing your windows. Plus, you can watch or even ask to be involved in the process. In the future, you can use what you learn to perform a lesser version on your own as routine maintenance.
IF THE WINDOWS ARE TOO FAR GONE, then the time has come to replace them. Take the plane in to your favorite A&P, and make arrangements to have the windows replaced. While this will be expensive, you will be amazed at what you can see with new windows. I guarantee it will be the cheapest ‘new plane’ you ever purchase. More important, you will be amazed at what you can’t see. With new glass in the plane, you’ll have a hard time seeing any scratches for a while.
WHILE YOU HAVE YOUR UNOBSTRUCTED VIEW, enjoy it! Look for other planes, look at the ground, look at the sky, and consider what you may have been missing. Then work to protect your windows from the sun and the elements by keeping your aircraft in a hangar, and by cleaning the windows on a frequent basis.