Boeing Redesigns T-7 Canopy After Bird-Strike Risk Emerges

Boeing T-7 trainer
Credit: Brian Everstine/Aviation Week

Boeing has redesigned components of the T-7A Red Hawk trainer aircraft after tests showed how a bird strike against the cockpit canopy would endanger the pilot.

The Government Accountability Office in a recent report states that in June 2021 the program began tracking a risk related to protecting the pilot in the event of a bird strike, with mitigation work possibly leading to additional delays that officials say they are willing to accept to protect the pilot. Steve Schmidt, Boeing’s chief test pilot, says the problem emerged during tests in which a 4-lb. thawed chicken was fired at the cockpit and high-speed cameras detected the problems.

Since the tests, Boeing has redesigned the cockpit canopy with an arch of mostly aluminum being replaced with titanium and a strengthened blast shield. This design will be retested over the next 2-3 months.

Boeing also is preparing to take a T-7 test aircraft to Edwards AFB, California, for long-anticipated angle-of-attack tests. The company initially said last fall these tests were coming soon, but the company is waiting for a green light from the Air Force specifically on the jet’s software.

“There’s a lot of moving parts there, but I think we’re getting close to hopefully getting to where we know we’ve got a good software product for high angle-of-attack and we’re ready to go,” Schmidt says.

The GAO report states the program now expects a low-rate production decision in November 2023 and a July 2025 required assets-available date, both representing about a one-year delay to what was expected last year.

The T-7 program has faced delays the company says are a result of COVID-19-related supply-chain issues, and a recent reported charge of $367 million. The company is about halfway through its test program, flying the aircraft as often as six times per day at its St. Louis facility with turnarounds of less than an hour with no downtime  for maintenance, Schmidt says.

Brian Everstine

Brian Everstine is the Pentagon Editor for Aviation Week, based in Washington, D.C. Before joining Aviation Week in August 2021, he covered the Pentagon for Air Force Magazine. Brian began covering defense aviation in 2011 as a reporter for Military Times.


1 Comment
I find it amusing that you had to state that the bird was thawed.

IIRC, the frozen turkey story is apocryphal.