Why Does Airbus’ Latest Aircraft Wear A ‘Mask’ Around The Windscreen?

One of the most distinctive aspects of the new Airbus aircraft is the black ‘mask’ or visor around the windshield. Starting from the A350, new models like the A330neo and A321LR and beyond will all feature this. Here’s why Airbus aircraft have this unique design.

Lufthansa A350 Front
The black visor around the windscreen makes Airbus aircraft easily distinguishable from others. Photo: Lufthansa

Not just aesthetic

While the windshield mask certainly looks striking and unique, the reason for having it is not just aesthetic. To understand the masking, we first have to understand the unique windshield design on new Airbus planes.

According to Ruby, a Virgin Atlantic blog, the curved windshield design on these aircraft increases the overall aerodynamic efficiency of the planes. The A350 was the first Airbus aircraft to feature a curved cockpit glass, which allows the airflow to hug the surface of the glass with less turbulence, and thereby reduce drag.

Additionally, the windows’ concave design along the nose of the aircraft gives pilots a better view of ground operations when at the airport. But what about the black masking around the windshield?

A350
The curved windshield offers numerous benefits to pilots and aerodynamic efficiency. Photo: Getty Images

The black masking on this new windshield serves a purpose too. According to Airbus,

The emblematic “sunglasses” like black windshield eases the window’s maintenance and contributes to harmonising the thermal condition of this temperature-sensitive window area.” 

Put simply, this means the black color adjusts better to the temperatures surrounding the aircraft. Planes routinely go through rapid temperature changes, taking off from hot airports in the cold atmosphere, and all parts must adjust to this change.

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Carrying forward

The curved windshield and black “sunglasses” masking has continued from the A350 and found itself on all subsequent Airbus aircraft. The A330neo received the new design in 2017, clearly differentiating it from the older A330s. The first narrowbody aircraft to sport the new look was A321LR in 2018, cementing the new design as integral to the entire lineup.

SAS A321LR
The A321LR is the first narrowbody to receive the new windshield design. Photo: Airbus

We also know that the upcoming A321XLR will also feature the black masking from renders of the aircraft. The decision means that nearly all Airbus planes made in the next decade with feature this striking design.

Unique

Modern aircraft all look fairly similar, only varying by the size of their fuselage (although here’s a guide to always know what plane you’re looking at). However, manufacturers always try to add something unique to their planes. Usually, it’s the wings and wingtips of the specific planes, but Airbus and Boeing both have other features too.

New Boeing planes are instantly recognizable by the serrated engine covers on the 787 and 737 MAXs. Combined with the specific wing designs, spotting Boeing and Airbus planes has become quite easy now. However, it is sad to see the serrated covers won’t be returning on the 777X, putting their future in doubt.

Boeing 787 Rolls Royce Engine Serrated Covers
Serrated engine covers are unique to the Boeing aircraft lineup. Photo: Kurush Pawar via Wikimedia Commons 

What do you think about Airbus’ design choice? Do you like it over Boeing’s offering? Let us know in the comments!

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