Adding a Window

The side windows in the Avion are well below my eye level, and since I’m building a face-to-face dinette that will be above the wings, they’ll be below eye level when seated at the dinette as well. For this reason I’ve added an additional window. In an Airstream these are called Vista View windows. They are on the curve where the wall transitions into the roof.

I considered buying Airstream Vista View windows to install, but there were a few things to consider:

  • I wasn’t sure that the curve would match, or that I could accurately determine that without actually cutting a hole and trying one
  • they would have cost more than $800 for a pair, compared to about $150 for my DIY version
  • I know from the work I did on our Airstream Sovereign that they are hard to trim on the inside due to the compound curves on each end
  • they have rounded corners which match the rounded windows on a ’70s Airstream, but not the square windows on the 1965 Avion
  • the only advantage I could see is that they would be glass, although that would also mean they would be heavier.

I decided to make a window frame for two polycarbonate panes to go above the double jalousie window on the curb side.

The installed window, above. Each pane is the same width as the jalousie panes below it. The polycarbonate is untinted. The outside frame was cut from a single piece of 1/8″ thick aluminum, which is about 50″ x 11″.

The inside frame consists of 4 pieces of 1/8″ aluminum angle with legs 1/2″ and 1-1/4″. The end pieces were cut through one leg about every inch so they could be bent to match the curve, then riveted to a piece of 0.030″ aluminum to hold their shape. The outside frame is buck riveted to those four pieces through the skin.

After riveting the outer frame through the skin and inner frame, I added the 0.1″ polycarbonate and inserted the stops to hold it in place. The top and bottom stops are 1/8″ aluminum angle (legs 1/2″ and 1-1/4″), each held by three countersunk #6 bolts into threaded holes in the inner frame. The end pieces were made from solid 1/2″ aluminum which was hollowed out on the back to lighten it. They are secured with three countersunk #10 bolts into rivnuts on the inner frame ends. All of the bolts are stainless steel.

Trempro 635 was used to seal the polycarbonate to the outer frame, and the outer frame to the skin. If need be, I can remove the inner frame to replace the polycarbonate.

The window adds a little less than 10 lbs to the weight of the camper.

Before cutting the hole in the skin, all parts of the frame were assembled as a test to make sure everything would work.
The outer frame was bent used a die made of MDF and a home-made hydraulic press. It took three tries to find the right curve on the die to create a curve that would match the camper wall. There was a lot of spring-back in the metal. The curve didn’t have to be exact, because installing the window without the polycarbonate in place meant I could clamp the pieces together. It was more important that ends of the inner frame had the right curve to match the ribs they are next to. This photo was taken before the frame was cut to width.

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