Think about the last time you were on an airplane. Did you ever give a single thought about the shape of the windows? They’re round, so what? However, you might find it surprising to learn that there is a very critical reason to have round airplane windows.
Round windows can actually help keep the plane in the sky! Sadly, this discovery was realized after multiple serious accidents. If you’re wondering how that can possibly be, you should read on.
How many pictures have you seen taken from an airplane window? Have you ever thought about the window itself?
There is a deep and dark history behind every window having this rounded shape.
It all started with one airplane model — the de Havilland Comet.
In the early 1950s, two de Havilland Comets crashed killing 56 people. After a thorough investigation it was found that the planes crashed because of the Comet’s square windows. How is this even possible? Read on to find out!
Skilled aerospace engineers discovered one very vital fact. Cabin pressurization and square windows do not go together at all.
Cabin pressurization is when conditioned air is infused into an airplane that allows for perfectly comfortable flying conditions at both high and low altitudes. When the Comet was first created and used, cabin pressurization was just starting to be used. It was soon found that the combination of pressurization and a square window’s shape can lead to extremely dangerous situations. Let’s take a closer look at how this terrible disaster came to be.
The pressure inside of the plane increases more than it increases on the outside of the plane as the plane lifts off and reaches its cruising altitude,
The differentials in pressure leads the fuselage (body of the plane) to expand ever so slightly. The windows are part of this fuselage so pressure is placed upon the windows. This is why round airplane windows are superior to square ones. Square windows are problematic because the corners of the square create points that absorb a disproportionate of the applied pressure. The round window creates a more even distribution of this pressure.
The fuselage (body of the plane) and the window can completely shatter as pressure builds in the corners of the square window.
After the investigation it was found that this design flaw led to the tragic crash of the two de Havilland Comets in the 1950s. Due to this tragedy, square windows have never been used on any type of commercial plane.
As technology quickly progresses toward more energy efficient airplanes, it is an unfortunate reality that these accidents sometimes occur.
The next time you’re on a plane and you need something to talk about with your in-flight neighbor, tell them about why the plane windows are round!
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