Rescue helicopter with PLEXIGLAS® windows above a snowy landscape

© Airbus Helicopters

When every second counts

Helicopter glazing made from PLEXIGLAS® guarantees clear visibility and maximum safety.

When rescue helicopters take off, a few seconds can make all the difference. Whether they’re responding to a car accident in a city center, flying on a rescue mission in the mountains, or battling strong winds at sea—the extreme conditions place very high demands on the material.

Windshield with panoramic view

The H135 (previously 2014 “EC135”) has proven its reliability in air rescue operations thanks to its optimal safety and stability. The light and agile helicopter, produced since 1996 by the company Airbus Helicopters (previously 2014 Eurocopter), can handle all these requirements. The rotors are stable, yet flexible and lightweight; the engines are reliable and powerful. Often, it’s not only the pilots’ lives that depend on them. Another safety element is invisible, even though it’s right under their noses: the front windscreen. This provides a panoramic view, but it’s not made from glass. It is PLEXIGLAS® from Röhm that protects pilots from UV rays, offering them clear visibility and maximum safety during a rescue mission.

Helicopter glazing made from PLEXIGLAS® the H135 ensures good visibility. © Airbus Helicopters

20 years of the H135

The light twin-engine H135 has completed some 4 million flight hours since its entry into the market in 1996, with almost 1,200 units delivered to more than 300 operators in 60 countries. Read more on the H135.

Key advantages

PLEXIGLAS® is twice as light as traditional mineral glass. This reduces fuel usage and means that rescue teams can stay in the air for longer. All the transparent glazing on the H135 model—front, side, and rear—is made from this modern material.

For safety reasons, glass is unsuitable. If an accident occurs, such as a bird strike, glass breaks into thousands of tiny pieces and impairs visibility. This risk doesn’t exist with PLEXIGLAS® – only the directly affected area is damaged. There are more benefits: The sheets are especially easy to shape and provide pilots with a panoramic view—an important aspect in spherical helicopter canopies.

Certified quality and optical properties

By the time PLEXIGLAS® gets in the air, it has already come a long way. It all begins at the Röhm plant in Weiterstadt, Germany, where the material is produced in a special casting process. Then, each PLEXIGLAS® sheet waiting to be delivered is certified in accordance with aviation standards. The aviation industry imposes high standards on acrylic in terms of optical quality, thickness tolerance, and mechanical properties.

The material is then handed over to helicopter glazing specialists, Josef Weiss Plastic, to be processed further. The plastic is heated and stretched into the desired form. This is crucial to ensure perfect visibility for the pilot. Each sheet is checked down to the last detail: Are there any optical defects in the material? Are the size and shape ok? Even a millimeter can make a difference.

Reliable operation

Real-life missions put PLEXIGLAS® glazing to the test. Air rescue missions place great demands on the materials. Helicopters and their glazing have to withstand extreme changes in temperature, wind, and weather, as well as aggressive UV radiation—always there when every second counts.