Have you ever wondered why airplane windows are round and not square?

Have you ever wondered why airplane windows are round and not square? It took some tragic events to achieve the current design

We are used to seeing square and rectangular windows in most building structures, and while of course there are rounded windows, or “oculi” in architectural parlance, have you ever wondered why airplane windows are they always round?

How strange would it be to walk down the aisle of an airplane next to a square window? Maybe a few years ago not so much, as square windows were the norm on early commercial aircraft, but this quickly changed and of course there is an explanation.

Have you ever wondered why airplane windows are round and not square?

Unfortunately, it took a few tragic events for engineers to look at and change the design of airplane windows to round ones in the 1950s.

Accidents in airplanes with square windows

In those years, commercial aircraft began to be made much larger, but they also began to disintegrate in the air. The most famous cases were the De Havilland Comet, which fell apart in mid-flight in separate events in 1953, and then another, practically the same design, in 1954. It was later discovered that the cause of the accidents was precisely the square windows.

Engineers determined that the sharp edges of square aircraft windows created natural weak spots that caused “metal fatigue failure.” These corners were easily stressed and then further weakened by high-altitude air pressure.

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In the 1950s, planes like the de Havilland Comet flew faster and higher than industry predecessors, meaning that after multiple flights and repeated pressurization, the square windows basically shattered from the pressure.

gráfico del accidente del cometa de Havilland

Rounded windows, on the other hand, are able to distribute pressure evenly because they have no corners where stress is concentrated, which reduces the chance of cracking or breaking.

Circular shapes are also stronger and resist warping, making them better able to withstand repeated pressure differences between the interior and exterior of the aircraft.

Additionally, you may also notice that there are several layers of acrylic (not glass) between you and the exterior of the aircraft. Those layers offer additional protection against weather phenomena such as rain, wind and fog.

Have you ever noticed a small hole at the bottom? These are called “bleed holes” and they add another layer of protection, helping to keep the air pressure on board at a relatively constant level by allowing air to pass through the various layers of windows.

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