JULY 2010 – Flight suits.

This component of the flight gear required for a pilot/aircrew, don’t generally interest most aviation enthusiast as they aren’t seen as a big interest area. By doing some research, flight suits are quite an interesting area to learn about.

Flight suits, like flight helmets, enable pilots and aircrew to survive while flying. They protect the body giving when necessary warmth and coverage from flames in a crash or accident.

It is interesting to see how designs, materials and colours have evolved over time. Technology has enabled the designs to be modified to suit various needs and conditions.

Material development, features found on a flight suit, colours and quality of the designs are just some of the things that can be learnt from researching.

It is interesting to see in my opinion, that WW2/1950s era flight suits had much better quality control and strong sewing put into the suits, when compared with modern suits from 1980-2010 period which are rushed out with in some case lower quality control checks.

In collecting and preserving flight suits, it is becoming clear in last few years that some flight suits are very easily able to be acquired due to the types been common as nowdays, while other flight suit types are extremely rare to acquire or even find at all.

Flight suits have been in constant development since early 1900s. Having started as lightweight and heavyweight fur line, progressing to wool/cotton material by WW2, to nylon in 1950s, back to cotton in 1950s and finally Nomex material in 1960s – present day.

This article will review the main USAF flight suits from WW2 to 2010. You will see a big design leap from wool, to cotton, to nylon to nomex all over a 28 year period – 1940-1968. You will see colours and features of the various flight suits and learn why they were chosen as such.

WW2 era USAAF flight suits

A-4 / AN-S-31

A4 – A very common 1930s flight suit design, the A-4 was the most used flight until around 1943. It was a light weight cotton wool design just perfect for summer and winter flight use. Very few pockets were designed into the suit. They were open style and later war versions issued had zipper pockets added in the field.

– The AN-S-31 replaced the A-4 as a joint USAAF/USN flight suit design to speed up manufacturing and simplify costing for flight suit purchases. It was a improved A-4 type designed for summer or tropical areas.

K-1 Tan / K-1 Olive green

K-1 – Was a cotton material suit designed for tropical / summer use. It was introduced in 1944 to service. It was seen in use in WW2 very late in the Pacific campaign area. It was still used in Korean war from 1950-53 by aircrew as it was a popular suit.

K-1 – Was also issued after WW2 in a green colour for use.

Post WW2 – 1950s era – USAAF / USAF flight suits

L-1Green / L-1A – Blue / K-2 Green / K-2A Blue

K-2BOlive Green and International Orange


RAAF Cotton flight suit 1965

Nomex flight suits CWU-27/P

1968 Olive Green /1984 RAAF Nomex design / Desert Tan – current USAF issue

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