December 2010 – This is a 4 part special on flightgear used by the USAAF/USAF from 1940s-1960s.

In a 4 part article i have been working on for a while, i have managed to sort through an extensive group of photos from the LIFE magazine archives showing USAF flightgear in action in late 1940s, Korean war, 1950s, 1960s and Vietnam war periods.

This was the age when flightgear developed from a canvas cap to custom protective hard shell helmets and more.

My aim of the articles is to help people become more educated to what USAF aircrew wore inservice over the 25year period and to help assist in learning the different equipment designation names/models/setups etc that was used for flightgear purposes.


USAF – 1950s era

B-36 Peacemaker and its crew in early 1950s.They are all wearing K-1 spilt shell high altitude flight helmets and MC-1 high altitude flight suits.

<img style="width: 644px; height: 513px;" class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-1065" title="kkkimage" src="" alt="Flight crew of a B-36F plane No. 109, posing in front of the plane's nose in their pressurized suits and helmets in November 1952. Front (L-R): G.L. Whiting, B.L. Woods, I.G.

B-36 crew all wearing green L-1 flight suit and a mix of visor caps and baseball caps.

1951 F-86 Sabre pilot with a highly modified P-1A helmet with a WW2 ANH-15 cloth helmet inserted inside. The MS22001 oxygen mask has a rarely seen bail out adaptor added to it. He is wearing a B-10 parachute over a jacket and dress uniform.

Frank Everest and Fred Ascani at Muroc in 1951. Both are wearing Toptex early generation customised flight helmets with MS22001 oxygen masks. Everest is wearing a backpack parachute B-10, B-15C jacket and a flight suit. Ascani wears a interesting parachute – a B-8 backpack style parachute. He is wearing a L-1 flight suit possibly.

USAF pilot posing for a photo while wearing a P-1A flight helmet with no oxygen mask. He is wearing a backpack style parachute.

1950s – A USAF nuclear weapons testing crew gear up for another test drop in Nevada wearing assorted gear. All wear baseball caps, the right side crew member wears a L-1 flight suit while others wear what are green overalls?. They are all wearing backpack style parachutes.

Republic test pilot climbing into a F-84 Thuderjet wearing a P-1 helmet and MS22001 oxygen mask. B-3 gloves, B-5 life vest, private flight suit and a seat parachute complete his flightgear.


USAF pilot takes his wife for a flight in a T-33 Shooting Star but before the flight she has to do the flight chamber to acclimatise to flight at altitude and test her reactions. All people seem to wear a K-1 flight suit. All have P-1A flight helmets, some with the newly added visor at the time.<img style="width: 617px; height: 407px;" src="" class="attachment-949×9999" alt="5b05813

Here is a ALSE room cabinet shelf showing a very interest view for the enthusiast/collector. Many different modified P-1A flight helmets are shown. In top row, note the circle shaped yellow ear cups in centre helmet with visor. This is a P-3 modified helmet. On both sides are P-1A / P-4A helmets with black earcups which show they are upgraded to latest production standard as a MB-4 flight helmet type. With so many visors on show it is clear that this is the transition from B-8 goggles to the visor timeframe of 1952-53 era.


The husband and wife on wing of the T-33. Her husband wears a unit issued baseball cap. Two P-3 helmets with visors sit beneath them.<img style="width: 654px; height: 654px;" src="" class="attachment-949×9999" alt="7

Here the wife is been shown how to wear the flight helmet and oxygen mask. She wears a backpack style parachute.92939cf9564d730f_large

USAF gunnery champions of Europe in 1955/56 next to a F-86H Sabre jet. All wear G-3A g suit over either dark blue L-1A flight suit or K-2B flight suit. Overseas caps round out the gear.

USAF test pilots Yeager, Ascani and Ridley early 1950s with F-86D at Edwards Air Force Base, while wearing K-2A Nylon flight suits. These suits didnt last long in suit as they MELTED to the skin in a aircraft fire causing horrific burns and scarring. The helmets are Toptex helmets.

Stanley Butchart Test pilot B-47 Program 1954wearing a NACA marked P-1A flight helmet and MS22001 oxygen mask, K-1 flight suit and a backpack parachute. Note his civilian shoes.

Kids from a college get to go flying in a T-33 in rear seat wearing a P-1A flight helmet and MS22001 oxygen mask. Note the still near new rubber edgeroll , most turned brown from exposure to sun and heat. He is wearing a WW2 era An-6140 seat parachute – the black and white cotton material denote this model.

<img style="width: 671px; height: 671px;" src="" class="attachment-949×9999" alt="

190th FIS Idaho ANG pilots – all wearing P-1 flight helmets with A-14 oxygen masks, K-1 flight suits and WW2 A-4 flight suit possibly.

Test pilot at Wright Patterson 1954 with a F-86D Sabre Dog. K-2B flight suit and back pack style parachute are worn alongside a P-1A flight helmet – with artwork – and MS22001 oxygen mask. Special flight boots seem to be worn.

Maryland ANG Guardian Angels display team 1952 wearing a mix of L-1 / L-1. L-1A flight suits, P-1A flight helmets in various colours and MS22001 oxygen masks and back pack style parachutes.


Major Stuart Childs at Edwards Air Force base in late 1950s with a rare artworked Toptex helmet. He is wearing a L-2A blue flight jacket. Possibly K-1 flight suit and a scarf is worn to protect his neck.


B-47 Crew lined up 1954 at MacDill AFB – all wear K-2B flight suits, P-4A flight helmets – some with visors and some are missing visor but have the rail in place and MS22001 oxygen masks,. Backpack style parachute are present. Overseas caps are worn for headgear. <img style="width: 671px; height: 871px;" src="" class="attachment-949×9999" alt="(L to R) Aircraft Com., Maj. James

USAF B-47 Stratojet pilot and his flight gear in a static display – showing Weber ejection seat, MS22001 oxygen mask, P-3 flight helmet, K-2B flight suit, Immersion suit, Pressure suits, backpack style parachute with life raft kit underneath,

<img style="width: 648px; height: 763px;" src="" class="attachment-949×9999" alt="Typical US Air Force multi layer flight suit,

Test pilot climbing into a T-33 early 1950s at Edwards Air Force Base wearing K-2B flight suit, L-2B or MA-1 jacket or B-15 model modified potentially, P-1A flight helmet, MS22001 oxygen mask and backpack style parachute


B-52 Crew handing up their flightgear prior to taking off – a P-4 flight helmet and MS22001 oxygen mask is shown. He wears a K-2B flight suit and a backpack parachute is waiting to be passed up.

B-47 Stratojet – 1948 – or later in early 1950s i believe – with testing crews in L-1 and K-1 flight suits and have what are possibly early Toptex flight helmets with MS22001 oxygen masks. Backpack parachutes are used.<span class="
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