HISTORY OF FLIGHT HELMETS IN 1940S
When flying helmets for jets in the US Army Air Force – and then the USAF ( after 1947) – were being devloped in mid 1940s (1944-47 period), many new designs along with major trials were conducted to find the most suitable design for service use.
Jet flight was a new area in mid 1940s. Protection for pilots was deemed at first able to be met by existing leather and cloth helmets. After some studies it was found that the smaller confines of jet cockpits were liable to have pilots banging their heads on the canopy more often.
Plans were undertaken to devise new flight helmets that were able to soften and spread the shock of hitting canopy on the human skull.
USAF research labs and private labs devised new designs for flight helmets. In the meantime the USAAF/USAF used temporary and simple ways to improve the pilots head protection. Seen below is a rare insight and view of how the flight helmets developed in the 1940s.
The photo above shows a WW2 tanker helmet modfied to take an attached USAAF flying ANH-15 helmet.The goggles are B8 and the oxygen mask is a A-13 type with a H-2 bailout attachment.
These early combined types like above, were unsuitable. Thru various private and government studies and resources, there was a extensive program developed to insure a safe and useful flight helmet could be designed for high speed/high altitude flight.
B-1 FLIGHT HELMET
This photo above shows one of the trial helmets, the type was called a B-1 helmet. Note the chamosis lined A-13 oxygen mask for better comfort in flight.
These extensive trials covering many squadrons and pilots fed back information to the researchers who then used this to produce a improved flying helmet for the US Army Air Force/USAF. The B-1 helmet was accepted officially into service as a type designation “P-1 Helmet” and put into full scale production for use in 1947.
THE P-1 FLIGHT HELMET ENTERS SERVICE
The P-1 helmet was made by Paramount Rubber Company and Switlik Parachute Company. Both companies were awarded inital production contracts by the USAF.
The standard P-1 had a black edgeroll, no chin strap, no rear neck strap or much ability to handle a ejection – as the helmet would be blown off due to the high speed wind blasts.
Above photo shows USAF pilots wearing P-1 (modified) helmets in 1951.
The upgraded P-1 flight helmet is noted by the green web strapping and the oxygen tab on the inside of the helmet.
P-1 HELMET – IN AUSTRALIA
Luckly for me, i have been able to acquire one of these P-1 helmets, acquired several years ago thru extensive searching and much luck.
My example is a early production model P-1 but modified in service around 1951 to accept the revised P-1A helmet upgrade parts (chin strap, neck strap and better internal earphone parts).