During the 2015 NAAA convention, I was approached by Brain Rau, an operator from North Dakota, who at that time was the President of (NAAREF) National Agricultural Aviation Research and Education Foundation. He challenged Storm Aeronautics to figure out a way to protect ag pilots from the ever increasing number of drones that would be sharing the airspace with us. The most vulnerable point of the cockpit for a drone/bird strike is the center wind shield, directly in front of the pilot’s face and chest. The goal was to bring current glass technology to ag aviation, and that is what we set out to do. After a year of research and design we were ready to test our prototypes at the National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) lab in Wichita, KS. We had four pieces of glass tested against an OEM Air Tractor wind shield. The results were tremendous, as the fourth sample (ironically the one we thought would perform the worst) did the best. The Storm Shield ™ withstood 240 in-lb of energy before breaking. The Air Tractor window showed damage at the lowest setting of 30 in-lb. The engineers concluded that the Storm Shield ™ is 8 times stronger than the factory Air Tractor window. Not only is the Storm Shield ™ stronger, it also has greater clarity, which will work better in lower light conditions such as spraying at dawn, dusk, or night. The glass also has better scratch resistance and is chemical resistant.
The STC covers all Air Tractor models that have a center wind shield, which would be the 400-800 series. The 504 would not be included since it has a single piece wind shield. All Thrush models will also be included. The Storm Shield ™ has the same dimensions as the factory wind shields and is 3/8 inch thick. Installation procedures for the Storm Shield ™ will be similar to the existing maintenance manuals. The commercial jet industry has long tried to have the latest technology in cockpit protection for their pilots. Ag aviation hasn’t kept up the pace and the existing wind shields installed in new ag aircraft are 1970’s technology. Now we have the Storm Shield ™, the latest advancement in drone/bird strike protection technology. We are currently taking orders and hope to have a run finished by the 2017 NAAA convention in Savannah.