As a vital part of the rain removal system in aircraft, airplane windshield wipers play an integral role in maintaining the pilot’s visibility. Unlike the windshield wipers found on ground vehicles, those in aircraft are not used for the entire duration of a rainy trip, but rather during taxiing only. Once the plane is in flight, the windshield wipers are often rendered inoperative. Due to other rain protection systems, many aircraft do not rely on windshield wipers at all; however, commercial planes must be equipped with windshield wipers for specific situations. Despite the fact that many aircraft operate without windshield wipers, they are a significant component of flight in rainy weather for some. With this in mind, this blog will explore the way aircraft windshield wipers operate and the functions they perform.
Commercial planes, including the Boeing 737, Boeing 747, and Airbus 330, rely on windshield wipers to clear the pilot’s windshield during takeoff in rainy weather in order to maintain optimal visibility. As commercial planes gain speed on the runway, rain water runs up the nose cone and over the windshield, impairing visibility. On the other hand, military planes often reach high enough speeds that rain blows right off the canopy without the need for additional assistance, and single-engine planes rely on their propeller to blow rain off the windshield. For this reason, it is unlikely that either military or private planes would be equipped with windshield wipers. If conditions are harsh enough that a single-engine plane’s propeller cannot clear the rain for visibility, the pilot should not be flying at all. Meanwhile, military planes, such as fighter jets, have other rain removal systems. If needed, they can bleed air from the engine’s compressor section to the canopy, both melting and pushing the precipitation away. While windshield wipers are not necessary for every aircraft, their function is imperative to safe commercial flights.
Most aircraft use electrical motors to power their windshield wipers, but some rely on hydraulic wiper engines. The motor connects to the wiper and the arm to make a complete windshield wiping system. Wipers are frequently equipped on both the pilot’s side and the co-pilot’s side in order to provide backup in the instance of one side failing. If one system fails, the other pilot must assume all control over steering the aircraft. In the rare instance of both systems failing, the aircraft can still take flight, however, it is limited to takeoff and landing only in visual meteorological conditions. These are conditions where the pilot can clearly see nearby surroundings.
In addition to windshield wipers, aircraft rely on a variety of rain removal systems. Some common systems include chemical rain repellents, hydrophobic seal coatings, and pneumatic rain removal systems. Chemical repellents work by drawing rain on the windshield into beads so as to lessen the portion of the glass the rain occupies. Repellents are activated by a control inside the cockpit. More recently, windshields have been treated with hydrophobic coatings, which work similarly to repellents by beading up the water on the windshield. The drawback of using a coating in the place of a repellent is that the coating must be reapplied regularly, while a chemical repellent tank is simply refilled. A pneumatic rain removal system, on the other hand, does not use any special substance, but it creates a flow of heated air over the windshield to break up the rain. Regardless of the system your aircraft uses, visibility is of utmost importance for a safe flight.
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