AOPA will be closing at 2:30pm ET Wednesday, November 23rd, and will remain closed Thursday and Friday in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday. We will reopen Monday November 28th at 8:30am ET.
AOPA Members DO more LEARN more SAVE more - Get MORE out of being a pilot - CLICK HERE

Cleaning a windscreen

Bugs be gone

Pilots are particular people, and aircraft are particular machines, so it should come as no surprise that there is a right (and wrong) way for something as seemingly simple as cleaning a windscreen.

Illustration by Charles Floyd
Illustration by Charles Floyd

There’s no Safelite for airplanes, and replacing a windscreen or canopy can cost into the tens of thousands of dollars depending on the aircraft, so make sure you don’t damage a windscreen with a well-intentioned but incorrect cleaning.

  1. Gather your supplies. The key here is to go with whatever the owner/operator prefers—Prist or just plain old water are common choices. Grab a clean microfiber cloth as well. While Windex and paper towels are go-tos for glass on the ground, they are not a good choice for aviation’s acrylic windscreens and should be avoided.
  2. Spray the cleaner on the windshield/windows. If you have to use a ladder to reach all the windscreen, be careful that your attire (buttons, zippers, rings, rodeo star belt buckles) doesn’t scratch anything. Then, spray the area you want to clean. And if you’re going to clean part of the windscreen, you might as well get it all.
  3. Wipe in lines, not circles. Wipe the cleaner, bugs, and grime off with top-to-bottom swipes, not circles. Circles are more likely to scratch the windscreen, and will elicit screeches of terror from nearby pilots.
  4. Not quite clean yet? Do it again. After a very buggy flight, it might take two or three rounds to get the windscreen shipshape again. But don’t give up! It is easier to clean the bugs off when they’re freshly slain and before they’ve had time to harden.

    If you keep the windscreen clean and get into the habit of cleaning it after every flight, it’ll serve you well for years to come.

Alyssa J. Miller

Alicia Herron

Publications Content Producer
Publications Content Producer Alicia Herron joined AOPA in 2018. She is a multiengine-rated commercial pilot with advanced ground and instrument flight instructor certificates. She is based in Los Angeles and enjoys tailwheel flying best.

Related Articles