How Does Hail Affect Aircraft?

Many people who are not experienced in working with aircraft are astonished to discover how much damage can be done to an aircraft that comes into contact with hail. Of course, avoiding hail would always be the first choice of any pilot, and in most circumstances, this is possible. However, in some situations, a hailstorm is not predictable, and in others, the hail may spread much further than the radius of the storm in question.

As those in the industry are aware, the components of an aircraft are built to withstand impacts such as hailstones and even much larger objects, such as large birds in flight. For this reason, it is unlikely that hail would cause significant and hazardous damage to an aircraft. It is very common, however, for hail to cause problems that lead to grounding and require repairs, including extensive damage to windscreens and other parts.

Hail can cause problems for aircraft:

Flights are usually cancelled or delayed if the risk of storms is imminent, and this is partially due to the risk of damage caused by hail. Hail is a common problem because it is often unexpected – and almost impossible to see before you reach it, especially during a night flight. The way in which hail erupts from the cloud during storms can cause hail to spread in many directions, and the impact of icy hail at high speeds can be significant.

Common problems caused by hail include:

  • Cracked windscreens. It is highly likely that the outer windscreen will be cracked by a hailstorm, and although the damage is mostly cosmetic, as the inner windscreen remains structurally intact, this can cause visibility problems for the pilot and will precipitate an emergency landing in many cases. However, aircraft windscreens are designed to withstand much larger impacts and contain a heating layer to prevent damage to the load-bearing layer.

  • Damage to the radome. The radome on the front of the aircraft often takes a battering in an encounter with hail, and this can look dramatic, especially to those unfamiliar with aircraft components. However, the function of the radome is only to be transparent to radar signals, and this plastic component has no bearing on the flight of the aircraft. If the radome was to be significantly damaged or even removed from the aircraft, the only resulting problems would be an increase in noise level and an increased risk of damage to the radar antenna.

  • Hail entering the engine. Hail that actually gets into the engine could be a significant problem for an aircraft in flight, and could ultimately cause an inlet guide vane or compressor blade to bend or break. This is, however, highly unlikely, and the cowling of the engine is designed to protect the fuselage from any loose components or external objects. Aircraft are, of course, thoroughly tested to ensure that they are not susceptible to problems of this kind, and are designed to withstand the impact of birds and other objects hitting them at speed.

IglooMX offers reduced AOG time and effective repairs worldwide

Whether an aircraft is damaged by hail or forced to land unexpectedly for other reasons, a prompt and effective repair will be necessary, and this can sometimes be required in an unusual location. The IglooMX is designed for exactly this purpose and is especially helpful when repairs are needed after a large storm that has damaged several aircraft since AOG time can be minimised and repairs carried out much more efficiently when there is additional, optimised hangar space available.

Our range includes diverse and custom made options that can improve the way you maintain and service your aircraft, as well as streamlining your emergency repair procedure, and we will be happy to talk to you about the solutions that suit your business best.

How hail affects aircraft

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