Bird strikes have been an ongoing hazard since the beginning of aviation, all aviators have either experienced a near miss or an actual bird strike. The damage caused by bird strikes is immense and sadly they often result in the loss of life. Helicopters are by no means immune to bird strikes and many incidents have been recorded over the past few years some with catastrophic results.
Robinson recently introduced optional impact-resistant windscreens for R22, R44, and R66 helicopters to provide protection from bird strikes. Due to the lack of requirements governing small category helicopters, Robinson based the impact-resistant design on FAA requirements governing large transport category helicopters.
The new windscreens are constructed of tough, energy-absorbing polycarbonate (standard windscreens are made of acrylic) and installed with distinctive retention hardware. A special hard coating provides protection from scratching and weather degradation.
Tests were conducted at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas where a 1 kg bird, the FAA’s standard test weight, was used to simulate a bird strike. Tests demonstrate the R22’s windscreen provides protection at impact speeds up to 90 knots, while the R44 and R66 windscreens provide protection at impact speeds up to 100 knots.
The 2020 upgrade prices for the new windscreens are $6,600 for the R22 and $6,800 for the R44 and R66. No special maintenance or inspections are required, although a cabin cover is recommended for prolonged outdoor exposure.
Robinson believes the new windscreens will be particularly beneficial to pilots flying at low altitudes or in other environments where the risk of a bird strike is greater.