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Custom-made windshield (and repairing plexiglass)

A friend has a cracked windshield on his Zlin 43, and the cheapest factory one he could find is about 1500 EUR. I have a feeling it may be possible to get a custom-made one cheaper. Any recommendations?

LKBU (near Prague), Czech Republic

I think they just take a sheet of acrylic out of an oven and form it over a mould. In the US I have heard of sending away a mould for custom canopies to one of the windscreen manufacturers for them to mould onto. I don’t know who does this in Europe, but maybe call around to see.

Furthermore, I don’t know if you can form a new window off of the broken window (which has been glued back together) or if the tolerances will require an intermediate mould (e.g. a mould off of the damaged window and then the new window formed from that mould). It could be cheaper than 1500 eur if you can form the new window from the old window, but I can’t see it being less if you have to make a mould. You might have to just bite the bullet and pay the fee, at least you will know the quality of the window (i.e. it should be perfect if you are buying it from a manufacturer).

I have formed boat canopies and windows at home (using a home oven and localised heating with a heat gun and propane torch), but they were small and the optical performance was not hugely important.

Sans aircraft at the moment :-(, United Kingdom

They can certainly help you. Not sure a one-off is cheaper than your quote…

EDM_, Germany

I have bought parts from Weiss and they are nice people, but their products are not inexpensive. In the US we can get custom made plexiglass parts made but the issue with going in that direction is the very high cost of packaging and shipping large, delicate parts across the world. I faced this when buying parts from Weiss for which they already had OEM tooling, and have hand carried a total of three large transparencies to the US, as oversized baggage on Lufthansa. I picked them up in person from the Weiss factory south of Munich. Also not cheap, but cheaper than palletizing and shipping!

Last Edited by Silvaire at 18 Sep 14:48

How cracked is it? Do you have a picture of it? If you are patient enough, you can get near-perfect repairs using a product called Altufix p10. (I’m building an ultralight from an abandoned kit and my first task was to repair the windshield)

Otherwise this company: does custom job but I’ve no idea of the costs involved.

wleferrand, it’s pretty bad, the cracks went three ways from a single point of impact and they are more than 15 cm long, two out of the three going all the way to the edge. Thanks for the Altufix idea, it’s probably cheap enough to try it anyway, and the crack is not in the line of sight, so even an ugly repair will do.

LKBU (near Prague), Czech Republic

You’d be amazed at what some people do with altufix. It’s liquid plexiglass (I reckon that you could make some if you had chloroform available, but it’s so hard to find at least in France) and it is perfectly transparent once cured. It’s SOP to fix airliner windows with it, I’ve been told, and you couldn’t tell there was a crack.

The challenges are:

  • get a clean V cut along the crack (easy with a dremel tool)
  • position the part so that the altufix doesn’t run down everywhere, but down the V and on top of it (it shrinks by 10% when drying, so you need to have some buffer).
  • manage to keep bubbles outside of the altufix – wait for the bubbles to go away, be slow, etc
  • grind the altufix properly to shape then sand / polish. (there are altuglas products for that, one is a buffing compound the other one is a chemical polish)
  • repeat on the other side

All that without shooting your lungs – it’s nasty stuff.

Last Edited by wleferrand at 18 Sep 23:17

Thanks for that – Altufix sounds very interesting! In considering whether I could have used it to fix a crack on one canopy panel that I replaced, it occurred to me that tinted parts (versus clear Plexiglass) might not be as repairable with Altufix. For example, a lot of older western European glider and light aircraft canopies were tinted in an otherwise unusual blue color. Matching existing transparencies was one reason I bought new parts from Weiss versus having them made in the US.

some time ago, i owned a sukhoi 31 – the canopy was a bit low for me, my head kept brushing the inside of the bubble during negative g.

i asked about getting a new bubble blown (re-using the frame). the sukhoi dealer knew somebody in europe who would do a good job of this – was quoted about 10K euro to make the mold and draw the plexiglass!

it was a lot cheaper to find a different parachute that fit into the seatback a bit better.

there are some very skilled people around fixing plexiglass – maybe try some glider specialists – lots of big canopies around in the glider world, somebody must be doing a lot of clear plexiglass repair.

Cee Baileys are the people to go to for this sort of thing if you have an RV and want something better than the standard screen. I don’t know about a Zlin but they might be worth a call. Website here.

EGMA / Fowlmere
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