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Old 05-21-2018, 09:08 AM
Radioflyer Radioflyer is offline
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Boston
Posts: 66
Default Bubble canopy bird strike mitigation

I am just terrified of hitting a bird in flight and having it penetrate the canopy and into my face. This has happened in the past (not yet to me), has been reported here very recently. and will continue to happen. There must be something that can be done to better protect occupants in a bubble canopy.

What comes to mind is application of a tough transparent film on the forward part of the canopy. I know there are films designed to control and contain shards of glass from an impacted sliding glass door. However, these films will not conform to the compound curves of a bubble canopy. There are also various forms of a more stretchy polyurethane tape (colloquially known as helicopter tape and used on leading edges of blades) that is none-yellowing, transparent, and tough.

There has to be a polyurethane film material that can meet the requirements. It won't stop canopy breakage, but will mitigate the shards and impact force to the face. Another solution is to attach a second layer of conformally molded polycarbonate plastic to the aft side of the canopy. Of course, one can always wear a helmet and visor...but a canopy lamination of some form seems more practical overall.
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Old 05-21-2018, 10:20 AM
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Ironflight Ironflight is offline
VAF Moderator / Line Boy
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Dayton, NV
Posts: 11,716

Sounds like you need to build a “chicken gun” and do some testing!
Paul F. Dye
Editor in Chief - KITPLANES Magazine
RV-8 - N188PD - "Valkyrie"
RV-6 (By Marriage) - N164MS - "Mikey"
RV-3B - N13PL - "Tsamsiyu"
A&P, EAA Tech Counselor/Flight Advisor
Dayton Valley Airpark (A34)

Last edited by Ironflight : 05-21-2018 at 12:36 PM.
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Old 05-21-2018, 10:25 AM
dmat dmat is offline
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Union County, NJ
Posts: 466

I have hit a bird in my aa1 and lucky form me it hit the wing. No fun at all. Scary.

RV6A - N6389 - flying regularly
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Old 05-21-2018, 10:44 AM
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Toobuilder Toobuilder is offline
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Mojave
Posts: 4,114

Even if you could stop a canopy from breaking, it will still deform on impact. Considering that most RV canopies are within inches of your head, it's easy to see that you are likely to be injured or knocked out in the right scenario. Short of being very careful and very lucky, I suspect the brute force technique is the most likely to be successful. I came to this conclusion after taking a bird through the windscreen of the -8 and earning a permanent scar thanks to a face full of plexi shards. The replacement windscreen was a shallow sloped flat wrap of .250 thickness. Wont stop a turkey buzzard, but it ups my chances in a repeat. The Rocket will eventually get a similarly sloped windscreen, but it will be .500 thick owing to the higher speed.
WARNING! Incorrect design and/or fabrication of aircraft and/or components may result in injury or death. Information presented in this post is based on my own experience - Reader has sole responsibility for determining accuracy or suitability for use.

Michael Robinson
Harmon Rocket II -SDS EFI instalation in work
RV-8 - Flying
1940 Taylorcraft BL-65 -flying
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Old 05-21-2018, 11:34 AM
eaglen92ce eaglen92ce is offline
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Chandler, AZ
Posts: 162

Bird strike is a popular topic in the rotorcraft safety world right now. Use of Wig Wag or pulsing lights is being presented (with some scientific study behind it) as a way to prevent bird strikes. It may be less effective at RV speeds though, I have not read the studies. Wig Wag landing lights may also help prevent large bird strikes (other airplanes) as well...
Bill York
Stellar Airpark (Chandler AZ)
RV-6 N477DH
Eagle II N92CE (sold)
Hiperbipe N777HT (sold)
PA22-160 N9322D (sold)
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Old 05-21-2018, 11:37 AM
Kyle Boatright Kyle Boatright is offline
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Atlanta, GA
Posts: 3,407

More than a few people always wear helmets when they fly to protect against birds and other risks.
Kyle Boatright
Atlanta, GA
2001 RV-6 N46KB
2019(?) RV-10
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Old 05-21-2018, 12:08 PM
rv8ch rv8ch is offline
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: LSGG
Posts: 2,386
Default plastic film

I've only seen the plastic film used on flat glass or on car windshields. I have not seen if using a bit of heat would help shape it better, or if perhaps using strips would work. This stuff is very tough, that's for sure.

I called the guy that make the thicker windscreens for the RV8, and he essentially talked me out of it, saying that his view is that it won't make a huge difference. I think the plastic film on both sides of a flat wrap windscreen would be the strongest and easiest.

I totally agree that we should find a way to add more protection to the windscreens. Sounds like another business opportunity!
Mickey Coggins
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Old 05-21-2018, 04:08 PM
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SMO SMO is offline
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Salmon Arm, BC
Posts: 932

Originally Posted by Kyle Boatright View Post
More than a few people always wear helmets when they fly to protect against birds and other risks.
Yep, came within ~50' of an eagle a week or so ago. Not sure if it was deliberately diving on me, came from above. His wing span looked big enough to wrap right around my fuse! Have been wearing my helmet ever since.
Mark Olson
1987 RV-4 Sold
2003 Super Decathlon - Sold
F1 EVO Rocket, first flight May 31/14
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Old 05-22-2018, 12:22 PM
Radioflyer Radioflyer is offline
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Boston
Posts: 66

Yeah, what prompted this topic was that during my last flight I had to make an evasive maneuver to avoid a small group of birds, gulls I think. My face is just about 5" from that thin canopy acrylic plastic. I wish it were polycarbonate, although given he enormous kinetic energy of even a small bird I doubt thin polycarbonate plastic will be strong enough. I gotta do something though, but I think that the canopy manufacturers have more resources than I to look into this and to make their own chicken canons. It's a business opportunity for them.

PS- For example, they could at least offer something like a 1 square foot molded section of 1/4" or so thick plastic to mount on the aft surface of the canopy in front of the pilots face. I think that would definitely help.

Last edited by Radioflyer : 05-22-2018 at 12:26 PM.
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Old 05-22-2018, 12:32 PM
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Saville Saville is offline
Join Date: May 2014
Location: KBVY Massachusetts
Posts: 827

One could wear goggles.
Flying RV-8 N880BC
Double the 2017 Dues - happily paid.
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