A USAF Korean war era B-29 crew member wearing a N-2A jacket with fur hood, B-5 LPU and backpack parachute harness,L-1 flight suit, , brown flight gloves, A-1 flight boots for high altitude and A-11C flying pants.


US Navy pilots of WW2 discussing a mission somewhere in the Pacific. Note the M-450 flight helmet, goggles, tan flight suit and QAS parachute harness.


Late 1950s era US Navy pilot with APH-5 with has markings on it, seen alongside tan flight suit, MK-2 LPU and G-1 flight jacket. http://navypilotoverseas.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/barry-owens-8.jpg

Convair B-58 trail crews wearing high altitude flightgear – MA-2 flight helmet, backpack parachute harness and K-2 flight suits.


Late 1940s era/1950s pilot in P-1B flight helmet with B-8 goggles, B-15 jacket and rather oddly a A-10 oxygen mask from early WW2. It is thought to be a prop photo for a display?


Israeli Meteor pilot in a tandem seat trainer Mk 7?, wearing in mid 1960s, HGU-2A/P flight helmet and a British Type H oxygen mask.

XF-88 test pilot wearing very early Lombard Toptex pilot helmet.along with A-14 oxygen mask. These types of Toptex late 1940s are near impossible to acquire as they are keenly sought after by many collectors.http://jetpilotoverseas.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/1949-cooper1.jpg

A 1949 era B-36 Peacemaker crew member on the flight engineer panel wearing non standard flight gear such as a HS-38 headset and a throat microphone. He sits on a seat parachute harness.


A 1940s era P-80A? test pilot wearing K-1 flight suit, holding a Toptex flight helmet and A-14 oxygen mask.


A B-57 Canberra test pilot wearing a later generation Toptex helmet in 1960s with a visor on it.


A WW2 Catalina USAAF crew in Alaska wearing variety of leather and wool line flight jackets and flight pants to keep the extreme cold out…

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A recent acquisition towards the RAAF heritage flightgear collection of mine was a rare to find Australian issued BE-310 SARBE radio/beacon used for survival location of a downed aircrew member.

SARBE  rather conveniently stands for ‘Search and Rescue Beacon Equipment’.

The SARBE beacon were made in the UK for the RAF and these radios were also exported to Australia. They were distributed by an Australian company in Melbourne who then supplied them to the RAAF / Royal Australian Air Force.

The beacon was composed of 2 parts a transmitter section with a 2 press keys and an antenna section with a collapsible metal antenna used to transmit the signal to rescue forces. The antenna was unfolded out of its coiled up housing and this allowed the signal to reach up into the sky.

The speaker and transmit keys are used to talk to the rescue force. The black plug enabled this radio beacon to be connected to a dry-cell battery pack for longer life. There were two types of this beacon, this type as shown here which had a voice Tx/Rx with the handheld PTT box and the other variant which is just a pure locator beacon.

The SARBE beacon i acquired is marked as “Sarbe Transistor Beacon with Speech – Melbourne” with a s/n unreadable.

In searching for further information i have found 2 films  from late 1960s showing the SARBE radios –

A 3min film showing the radio at work and been made


This film has first 6mins devoted to the  out takes of the above film


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This article reviews the late 1960s RAAF fast jet pilot who would have been found flying CAC Sabre Mk 32 in Air Defence roles in Australia or in Thailand at Ubon RTAFB.

My flightgear photo shoot was done using the aircraft which is cared for by the HARS Museum located at Albion Park airport NSW. (Visit www.hars.org.au for more information.) This very Sabre jet aircraft was the first production CAC Sabre and it was A94-901 markings. As it was the first production jet it was issued to ARDU unit for tests and trials in mid 1954. Later on it was upgraded from Mk 30 to Mk31 variant over time. During the 1960s the aircraft served with 76 Sqn at RAAF Williamtown “Panthers”. By 1966 it was retired and stored and eventually ended up at CAC at Fishermens Bend in Melbourne as a gate guard display. By late 1990s the aircraft was brought to Sydney and then HARS has acquired it on loan and have since further restored the aircraft to static standard and it is a centre piece on museum days and airshow days.

Along with my photographer mate Christian we did a photo shoot to show people what the typical fast mover pilot of the 1960s looked like beside the Sabre jet.

The typical setup was by this time standardised  on a few different gear pieces. The flight helmet was the HGU-2A/P with a P type oxygen mask or in extreme rare case MBU-5/p oxygen mask was substituted.

The yellow RFD life preserver was made in Australia under license from the 1950s to 1980s and is a copy of the RAF Frankenstein LPU. It has a Co2 bottle on left front and red top. The bottle was activated by pulling down the lever and this injected Co2 into the internal bladder of the vest which then inflated the bladder to keep the pilot floating safely on water. Various survival aids, radio and equipment could be packed into the vest many pockets. It was also attached to the life raft kit.

The flight suit was by late 1960s upgraded from standard RAAF light green cotton flying suit to the then new aramid nomex flight suit which offered more protection in flash fires in cockpit or aircraft fires. These early generation nomex suits were made in a darker green colour and hotter and heavier to wear.

The standard backpack style parachute harness was worn by all Sabre pilots worldwide in the 1960s and was slotted to fit into the NAA T-4E-1 ejection seat for a comfortable fit. A chest and 2 lap buckles on straps were what held the parachute to the pilot. A life raft kit was normally added , which also doubled as a pilot’s seat cushion.

Standard flight boots – laced up black colours were normally worn by all pilots.

An anti g suit or more commonly known as a “gsuit” was worn to enable a pilot to “pull” extra gs in a dogfight or when turning in flight. The RAF supplied model anti g suits were most common but by the 1960s a limited supply of USAF CSU-3/ g suits were in service as the RAAF converted more to a US supply chain for flightgear/alse needs. The g suit connected to the aircraft by the tube on left side and this provided the air pressure to work the suit.

A94-101 has been painted in markings of Jim Flemmings who is a well known former RAAF pilot. I am seen holding a rare photo of Jim, who is also seen standing in flightgear in front of a Sabre jet in 1960s.

The aircraft is extremely well cared for by a team of volunteers, some who are quite passionate about the aircraft.

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Want to learn more about flightgear?

Want to learn more about flightgear – join the most talked about group online at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/flyingclothing and discuss flightgear issues with 300 other members. Join the group by following the request to join process.

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US Navy pilots on aircraft carrier deck wearing QAS parachute harnesses, G-1 flight jacket, flight suits and M-450 flight helmets with flight goggles.http://navypilotoverseas.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/navy_pilots_head_for_ready_room_after_landing_their_planes_on_uss_yorktown_cv-10-_-_nara_-_520947.jpg

Korean war F-51 Mustang pilot with ground crewman. Pilot wears K-1 flight suit, garrison cap and pistol holster.


A pilot preparing to climb into a T-33 trainer jet, wearing P-3 flight helmet, MS22001 oxygen mask, parachute seat harness, B-5 LPU, casual shoes and a K-2B flight suit.


Korean War F-86 USAF pilot wearing a K-1 flight suit, L-2a Flight jacket, B-10 parachute harness, B-5 LPU and a P-1A flight helmet rests on canopy sill.

A very interesting and rare photo showing a group of USAF Florida ANG pilots with 1 st generation 1946-47 hard hat flight helmets. Early jet flight helmets were built from mining hard hats  or army helmets and these types are shown here. Some are attached onto top of ANH-15 cloth flight helmets. The pilot in middle with a moustache has a rare experimental B-1 flight helmet, predecessor to the P-1 series. All have A-14 oxygen masks. Some pilots have high altitude bottles sewed to their AN-6510 seat and B-10 backpack parachute harnesses, most have B-5 LPU others have B-4 type. All wear G-3/A anti g suits. Flight suits are presumed to be K-1 and A-4.


A host of pilots sitting on a wing of a P-47 Thunderbolt wearing P-1 flight helmets, A-14 masks, B-5 LPUs, tan and green K-1 flight suits. Groundcrew proudly pose with them.


18th FBW pilot celebrates his rare 100 mission mark with the horseshoe. he wears a P-1 flight helmet with B-8 goggles, A-14 oxygen mask, K-1 flight suit, B-5 LPU and a backpack parachute harness.


An unknown 1950s flight helmet design which was looking possibly at full face seal. it is based on a P-1 flight helmet seen by the black edgeroll.http://jetpilotoverseas.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/46-30-2_8001.jpg


USAF F-86 Sabre jet pilot seen with officers. He wears a artworked P-1 flight helmet, MS 22001 oxygen mask, possibly a B-10 parachute harness, B-5 LPU and maybe a K series nylon flight suit.


2 USAF pilots in Korea wearing B-15 flight jackets with fur collars, K-1 flight suit and A-4 flight suit.


F-86 Sabre pilot wearing P-3 flight helmet , MS22001 oxygen mask and parachute harness awaits take off.


RF-84F pilot confers with groundcrew around a camera.Pilot wears a baseball cap and a L-2B flight jacket.


A US Navy pilot on a SBD Dauntless wearing tan flight suit and a M-450 flight helmet maybe.


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Phil Buckley visited the RAAF’s new AEW&C Squadron at RAAF Willamtown at Newcastle, NSW to gain an insight into the operations of the E-7A Wedgetails.
2 Sqn / No 42 Wing – Surveillance and Response Group – AEW&C “Wedgetail”
With the striking red lightning bolt squadron marking and Wedgetail call sign, 2 Sqn leads a new era of defence doctrine with the E-7A AEW&C aircraft fleet which will significantly improve future management of the technological battlefield environment which the RAAF operates in.
Motto – To Advise and Strike
No. 2 Squadron was established as a unit of the Australian Flying Corps (AFC) in Egypt in 1916, initially flying D.H.5 fighters. It then moved to France where it was heavily involved as a ground attack unit during the famous Battle of Cambrai. The unit was re-equipped with Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5s early in 1918, moving from ground attack to a new role of a pure fighter unit. By the end of WW1 the squadron had produced 17 flying aces each with 5 or more kills. After WW1, 2 Squadron was disbanded and wasn’t reformed until 1937 and stationed at RAAF Laverton in Victoria.
 A beautiful Vietnam War Canberra bomber artwork as on display in 2 Sqn reception
At the outbreak of the Second World War the unit searched for enemy vessels in Australian waters using Anson aircraft. After being re-equipped with Hudson aircraft, the squadron moved to Darwin in April 1941 to perform anti-submarine activities and general reconnaissance. During 1943 Beaufort bombers were introduced and were flown throughout the Pacific theatre. With the rate of development of aircraft technology by mid 1944, the Beaufort was exchanged for B-25 Mitchell bombers. These aircraft were used up until the end of the war. After the war, the squadron assumed transport operations until it moved to their home base of RAAF Laverton in December 1945, where it was downsized and eventually disbanded on 15 May 1946.
In the 1950s the squadron was reactivated and flew Avro Lincolns. By 1955 they had upgraded to the English Electric Canberras B.20 and were active again in South East Asia in dropping bombs in the Malayan Emergency. After returning home, they were again redeployed from 1967 because 2 Sqn’s precise Canberra bombing capabilities were back in demand. They operated from Phan Rang Air Base in South Vietnam for over 4years before returning home in 1971. Due to its 3 awards from actions in the Vietnam War, 2 Sqn has the distinction of being the most highly decorated squadron in the RAAF to date. After Vietnam, the squadron was based at RAAF Amberley flying the Canberra for target towing and aerial mapping of Australia and overseas up until it was disbanded in 1982. In 2000, the squadron was again reformed for active service, as it was to be in a few years time operating the newest air capability the RAAF has acquired – Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C).
The RAAF started in 1996 a program which was to form a component of its future expansion plans and this new capability was devised to give the RAAF its own AEW&C fleet. A RFP was issued by the RAAF to the aviation industry for the AWE&C project and in 1999 Boeing/Northrop-Grumman Wedgetail AEW&C system was successfully chosen. The Boeing project uses the basis of a 737-700 airframe modified into an AWE&C platform with Northrop Grumman and other companies supplying the radar/defensive system.
In 2000, Boeing was awarded a contract to supply four AEW&C aircraft, with the option for an additional two to be taken up later. Additionally the RAAF decided to reactivate 2 Squadron, which was reformed on 18 January 2000 and once reestablished was moved to its new home base at RAAF Williamtown in early 2004. During 2006, 42 Wing was also reformed to oversee and control 2 Sqn operations.
E-7A on display at Avalon Airshow
The development of the Wedgetail system meanwhile was subjected to many delays. It was developed from the Boeing BBJ Business jet which was then merged with complex AEW&C technology during the late 1990s / early 2000s. A variety of technological issues with the radar system involved required extensive developing / testing to ensure they would work and integrate as required. These problems caused the Wedgetail program to fall behind schedule on a number of occasions. During 2006, the delays incurred were causing some serious worries for both the Air Force and Boeing/Northrop Grumman.  As with most military projects, these delays were eventually overcome and the program proceeded to reach various milestones, with the initial aircraft delivery to the RAAF finally taking place 3 years later in 2009.
The remaining 5 aircraft were spread across the next 3 years with the last aircraft delivered in June 2012. The E-7A Wedgetail aircraft are now in service with serials A30-001 to A30-006.
The E-7A military lineage is identified by the Northrop Grumman canoe shaped MESA (Multirole Electronically Steered Antenna) array mounted on top of the fuselage. In addition, the aircraft are highly modified with numerous external modifications which are part of countermeasure systems mounted and these are located on the nose, wingtips and tail sensors/communication system and self protection. Other modifications to the airframe have included the addition for stability of 2 ventral fins on the lower rear fuselage under the tail. The drag index incurred by these various external modifications make some changes to the 737 flight profile but the aircraft is able to accommodate these changes due to the powerful CFM-56 engines.
Using the new capability which comes with AEW&C operations means that the squadron is now a core component of the Royal Australian Air Force’s Surveillance and Response Group (SRG). The SRG brings together specific assets to enable the RAAF to conduct operations and is responsible for
  • air surveillance assets,
  • maritime warfare,
  • aerospace, surveillance and battle space management,
  • surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities
  • developing and maintaining specific electronic warfare (EW) capabilities.
These ranges of capabilities mean the RAAF can now deploy more high technological aircraft to operations in both maritime and land environments. This sees 2 Sqn forming one part of this component flying from RAAF Williamtown, while operating AP-3C Orions from RAAF Edinburgh, 10 and 11 Sqn form the other airborne component. The introduction of the E-7A platform represents an entirely new capability for the Australian Defence Force which it has never had before. It will also begin to reap another benefit as the E-7A becomes a core force multiplier that will enable the RAAF, for the first time to have an airborne capability to gather information from a wide variety of sources, analyse/manage the data and then via the networked system, distribute it to other RAAF units, various ADF land/maritime assets and other allied/friendly units.
The E-7A is based on the commercial civil 737-700 which has then been modified to meet the RAAF’s role of an AEW&C platform. The aircraft is built as a green airframe and then transferred to a modification line where a gap was cut in the rear top fuselage to the take the radar mount. Overall the civil airliner 737 has adapted well to a “new”, late in life military product line. This comes nearly 50years after it first flew. The other new upcoming military maritime variant, the  P-8 Poseidon is also based on the 737 and shows the design still has a lot of life left in it.
In ramping up its training of the aircrew to fly and operate the Wedgetail, the RAAF has already gained some experience operating the 737 airframe, a specialized VIP version based on the BBJ is in use by 34 Sqn at RAAF Fairbairn. This useful experience gained by 34 Sqn has seen specific information passed onto 2 Sqn, with the sharing of operational, technical and other associated skills. Additionally the 2 Sqn gained further experience when personnel were attached to 34 Squadron, where they learnt the 737 aircraft flight characteristics, how the squadron operated and how they maintained the airframes. Interestingly the RAAF allowed Virgin Airlines to become involved in the program in the past, by sending some of its future Wedgetail aircrews to fly on Virgins Airlines civil 737 aircraft on normal domestic routes. This was so the RAAF aircrew members could build up 737 air time, along with learning areas such as maintenance, operations and general aircraft handling skills.
RAAF E-7A Wedgetail landing in the UK 2012 (Photo/copyright Tony Lowther)
The RAAF Wedgetail operation has a crew of 2 qualified pilots in the cockpit, a Captain and a Co-pilot flying the aircraft. They are trained with the required multi engine and CRM skills as required for the aircraft type. A flight trainer is in use at RAAF Williamtown to train the pilots, thus saving the high value airframes from using up unnecessary flight hours. The flight crews are further trained at the squadron level for special skills relating to the mission roles which can include defensive tactics flying in hostile airspaces and air to air refuelling. The E-7A carries 7 other personnel who are the mission crew, otherwise known as Air Combat Officers / Airborne Electronic Analysts. These members operate the electronic radar system. There is room for another 3 more operators if needed.
All of the ACO/AEA crews sit at workstations using computer screens and keyboards to process the electronic data generated by the mission computers. The Air Combat Officers are the heart of the system, where they analyse and process the data of the radar returns. In a battle environment the crew would be monitoring the strike packages and what enters or leaves the target areas.
Due to Australia’s vast size and large and unequal population distribution, this has resulted in a rather challenging situation in that the RAAF is required to protect and maintain the airspace integrity over the large land mass against a host of different and challenging aerial intruders. To operate as an AWACs the RAAF chose an aircraft which had the capability to fly for long distances and times. The E-7A has up to 10hrs endurance and can cruise at 760km/h. The maximum ceiling is 41,000ft. On a typical short range mission, the aircraft can fly for over 9hrs at a range of 300nm from an airbase/airport while conducting surveillance missions. The overall range of the E-7A is 6,482km which can be easily extended by further in-flight air to air refueling. The E-7A air to air refuelling capability enables it to refuel with boom equipped such as USAF KC-135/KC-10s and in the future the RAAF’s new MRTT KC-30A.
Having the new capabilities of the AEW&C will make such a task as airborne surveillance and battlefield control much more manageable, as the E-7A will work with JORN (Jindalee Operational Radar Network) , Air Defence Ground Based radars and operations centres when operating within Australia’s airspace. JORN radar is able to pick up long range 1500nm+ targets and when deployed the E-7A will be able to, focus on the closer range engagement range as they pass the outer limits less than 500km which is when the MESA radar comes into its own.
The MESA radar which is the heart of the onboard system, has a range of over 400km, can monitor up to 3,000 targets at once and can see deep into airspace ahead for very low and high flying unknown targets. The MESA radar is quite an advanced system which is still being tested and learnt by the squadron. The aircraft using this radar system can maintain constant surveillance over a surface area of in excess of 400,000 square kilometers and over a 10-hour mission, the E-7A could cover as much as 4 million square kilometers of airspace in that time. The MESA radar has the ability to use multiple modes such as:
  • a selectable, near instantaneous, rotation of the radar scanner through a complete 360 degree sweep which allows the operators to focus the search beam on a narrow area,
  • a wide angle area search function which can use enhanced capabilities to expand the detection range of the operators.
  • a scan of air and surface targets is enabled alongside a selectable Dedicated, Platform Stabilized, Ground Stabilized and Background Sectors.
  • embedded IFF capability.
E-7A Avalon display showing the MESA radar and CFM-56 engines

In conjunction with the MESA radar system, the aircraft has extensive Electronic Surveillance Measures (ESM) onboard to enhance its role. These systems include the Elta ALR-2001 which a similar type is found on the AP-3C Orions, Northrop Grumman AN/AAQ-24(V) Directed Infra-Red Counter Measures (DIRCM), Northrop Grumman AN/AAR-54 Missile Warning System (MWS), Elisra LWS-20 MWS and ALE-47 Counter Measures Dispenser (CMDS).

In building up its own capabilities to operate the E-7 mission computers/MESA radar systems, the RAAF posted personnel on exchange to USAF E-3C, US Navy E-2C and RAF E-3D AWAC communities, so it could gain a broader insight and training background regarding how to use an AWAC platform.  These program personnel exchanges for both pilots and mission operators, has helped contribute to the long term training on the operational plans which will be used by the crews. Additionally these acquired skills have helped to also develop the RAAF’s operational manual on how to effectively use the E-7A in a combat environment sooner, than if it had to develop these capabilities from scratch.
The main role for the E-7A AEW&C is that it will control the tactical battle space, providing the necessary commands for fighter aircraft, surface combatants and land based elements to take either the defensive or offensive as required. It will also be valuable in providing support to other systems such as UAV platforms in the future. In order to do such mission profiles, the aircraft carries a large communication suite onboard with systems such as Link-11, Link-16, HF, VHF, UHF, UHF SATCOM and ICS utilised. This data linking capability has been found over the years to assist in improving the situational, tactical and strategic awareness for unit commanders and operational groups in exercises and battle. The Wedgetail is also able to assist with defensive counter-air, offensive counter-air, maritime strike and interdiction, dynamic targeting, air-air refueling and personnel recovery.
To maintain such a capability as the Wedgetail into the future, the program is dependent on a series of support functions which will enable the aircrafts, the various systems and aircrew to remain active, up to date and ready to deploy. These subsystems which support the program include the AEW&C Support Facility (ASF), Operational Mission Simulator (OMS), Mission Support Segment (MSS), and Operational Flight Trainer (OFT). A lot of money and time has been invested into these support areas and the results are showing after nearly 10years, with the RAAF now actively deploying the Wedgetail fleet to local defence exercises and overseas defence exercises.
The other critical and rarely seen maintenance is the Life Support Fitters of 2 Sqn who maintain all the required flightgear and rescue equipment to ensure the aircrew are safe when flying. Their tasks are look after life rafts, survival vest and headsets. Normal survival equipment like life jackets, life rafts are checked and maintained in storage by the 2 Sqn life support fitters.
Some of the many tools used in ALSE work
Typical aircrew life jacket
For larger items such as overhauls or 30 days inspections of the life raft they are sent to the manufacturer at this stage. Due to the AEW&C aircraft been a front line asset, the aircrews are issued with Air Warrior survival vests. These vests are essentially the same type of combat vest as worn by the F/A-18 pilots, except 2 Sqn are a black colour. This survival vest is useful as it has many special survival equipment and tools for if the aircrews have to bail out and need to be self sustained while awaiting rescue.
The Air Warrior vest
The RAAF is not alone in operating the Boeing designed 737 platform AEW&C aircraft with South Korea and Turkey now also flying these aircraft. Other possible sales are being examined by Boeing and potential customers are seeking such a niche AEW&C capability. Looking ahead during 2012, 2 Squadron has already undertaken various training missions around Australia and has flown overseas across the Pacific to Europe and Northern America for further exercises. These exercises are slowly building up the necessary skills of the crews onboard as they learn how to use the systems and understand how to utilise the E-7A in simulated battle. The RAAF has stated that in the future, a permanent detachment of E-7As are planned to be based at RAAF Tindal, while the remainder of the squadron will operate from  RAAF Williamtown, other bases or on overseas missions/deployment as required. At press time the squadron is working towards an IOC (Initial Operating Capability) and this is expected to be gained by late 2012. A FOC (Final Operating Capability) for the E-7A Wedgetail fleet is planned for 2013.
The future of Australia is in safe hands with aircraft and the personnel assigned to the Wedgetail, which will see them watching from up high… alongside the JORN and other ISTR assets used by the ADF. They will be searching for intruders and other aircraft as they enter the air and sea space surrounding Australia .If needs be they will be deployed overseas.
If you are interested in a career flying aircraft like the E-7 AWAC, operating the radar systems or helping to maintain the aircraft it is recommended you get in touch with Defence Force Recruiting at: www.defencejobs.gov.au/recruitmentcentre or by calling 13 19 01.
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Throughout WW2, the Desert Air Force or DAF was made up of flying and ground units from the RAF, South African Air Force (SAAF), the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), the US Army Air Force (USAAF), and Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).

These units flew a large variety of aircraft from fighters, bombers to light aircraft in taking the war to the enemy using a range of types such as Hurricanes, Spitfires, Mustangs, Kittyhawks, Hudsons, Marylands, Beaufighters etc.

The Australian contribution from the Commonwealth perspective included fighter and bomber squadrons, with perhaps the most well known squadron been 3 Sqn which arrived in North Africa in late 1940 with P-40 Kittyhawks and served with the DAF until the closing stages of the war in Europe by which time the aircraft had been upgraded to P-51 Mustangs.  By early 1945, 3 Sqn had the most substantial service record of any DAF combat unit, including the greatest number of air to air kills at 217 claims. Many Australian pilots also flew with other RAF or SAAF squadrons in the DAF as part of personnel exchanges or operational requirements.

The Desert War took its toll on men and machines over the long war. The sand, heat along with the wind was harsh elements to battle against after the allies took on the Germans and Italian forces.
Due to the nature of flying in a desert environment pilots at times became lost because of no easy way to navigate or track their flight plan in a featureless terrain. Many crews died from lack of water and dehydration if they did have a forced land.

During WW2 the Royal Australian Air Force flew in the Northern African campaign in one of its area of operations for a few years using a variety of aircraft. Its role in North Africa was part of the larger Desert Air Force (DAF), which was also known as the Western Desert Air Force or the First Tactical Air Force (1TAF). The DAF was, as an Allied force created initially under RAF Middle East Command in North Africa during 1941 to provide Close Air Support (CAS) to the British 8th Army. The Desert Air war started in 1940 in Africa in Egypt then also grew to encompassed Libya, Tunias and Sicily and by 1945 ended in mainland Italy.

To coincide with the recent P-40 wreck finding in Eqypt, a photo review of the Desert Air War has been put together to show some of the unseen images of the Desert Air War. Australian Pilot has been allowed access to a large collection of black and white/sepia photos from the Tinus le Roux collection.

This SAAF collection of photos which Tinus acquired, has come from a range of South African Air Force (SAAF) pilots who flew in the WW2 Desert War / Northern Africa campaign and who took photos when they could between mission or on operational sorties.

Tinus’s actions will ensure these pilots photos of their time at war will be preserved for the future. This is a rarely seen insight into the  Desert Air war of 70years ago.

The SAAF provided over a dozen squadrons to the DAF. North Africa was their main theatre of operations, as the South African government had decided their military should not operate outside Africa. Between April 1941 and May 1943, the eleven SAAF squadrons flew 33,991 sorties and destroyed 342 enemy aircraft. The South Africans had the distinction of dropping the first and last bombs in the North African conflict – the first being on 11 June 1940 on Moyale in Abyssinia and the last being on the Italian 1st Army in Tunisia.

FLIGHTGEAR  – The flightgear worn in the desert war was initially of European type gear but over time specific Desert designed flightgear arrived for service with the units, which saw the gear designed having special modifications to make them suitable in the sand and heat.

In the photos you see early examples of the desert flightgear in use such as B type flight helmets with communication cords with bell plugs, Mk 8 goggles, cotton tan shirts and pants and flight suit overalls, 1936 black flying boots, seat parachute harnesses, Mae West life preserver vests, mess dress and Irvin flight jackets as it was cold air temperatures once a pilot left the hot desert ground …

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JUNE 2012  – In a tribute to 77Sqn RAAF operations which started in June 1950 over the Korean peninsula during the outbreak of the war, i am showcasing a flightgear heritage photo shoot I did in late 2008 with an Australian Mustang which is marked up in 77Sqn Korean era war markings.

I drove for 9hrs in 1 day to attend an airshow on north coast of NSW at Coffs Harbour in to display alongside the Caboolture Mustang VH -MFT. This aircraft was the 2nd photo shoot i ever did and some reasonably realistic 1950s era photos were obtained on a primitive digital camera.


Since the late 1950s, there has never been a RAAF CAC Mustang and Korean War era flightgear on display in Australia that i was aware of, due to the withdrawal and scrapping of the CAC Mustang fleet.

In September 2008 that changed.

I was able to organise a meeting and photo shoot at the Coffs Harbour airshow…..

The flightgear I wore is authentic for the early Korean War era of 77Sqn operations comprising RAAF E type flight helmet, H type oxygen mask, WW2 era Mae West life preserver, K-1 flight suit, pilot boots, backpack harness parachute and B-3 gloves. All of these were either standard RAAF issued or acquired from USAF stock in 1950.

The flightgear used by 77 Sqn in Japan and Korea in mid  to late 1950, was a massive mix and match of different flight helmets, flight suits and boots. So this display is an example of a “typical” setup as best as can be recreated for the time frame.

The airshow day was extremely warm and very humid… and wearing this flightgear was sure an experience i wont forget anytime soon in tropical north NSW.

A few lucky photographers were allowed rampside to capture this historic event.
Many of the public would have not been aware of the effort i went to achieve this display  but it did make a few people amazed to see that someone would do this to honour the 77Sqn operations.

This Mustang wore special noseart in Japan –

Another photo shoot was done at the HARS museum in 2010 with the same Mustang and flightgear. Some people were amazed at the detail i went to and asked me if i had come from some timewarp jokingly…and was I going to fly the Mustang …..( i wish i could)…

The map i hold is a USAF 1950 printed era pilot map covering the entire Korean peninsula.

All flightgear photos taken by my airshow organiser mate, Christian D Smith.

When i do photo shoots around warbird aircraft such as this Mustang, i spend considerable time researching not only the aircraft, the war , the pilots but try and find as many flightgear photos as possible to enable a correct reenactment setup is obtained prior to photoing.

With my vast – and possibly one of the largest outside USA and Europe – flightgear collection that is taken to airshows and special military events across Australia, i am able to strive for the high level of detail to ensure it is realistic and conveys the look of the era. It is fortunate i able to cover from WW2, Korea, Vietnam to modern times for such services as RAAF, RAF, USAF, US Navy, USAAF.

The purpose of me spending my time, traveling to events, buying flightgear, restoring it and putting on shows is to  enable and allow modern day airshow viewers and defence personnel – an insight to the past and a chance for them to understand what their fathers, grandfather, uncles or friends may of wore in combat and peacetime. Some people dont realise until they see such displays as mine that flightgear is in some cases quite heavy, bulky and tight fitting in a small cockpit.

For the remaining 6months of 2012, I am examining several exciting new photo shoots for reenacting with a host of warbirds in NSW and maybe possibly extending to VIC and SA all going well.

More information on 77 Sqn in Korea can be found in the superb book “The Forgotten Few” a well written indepth book which has various interviews with  members of the squadron and chilling insights to the hell they faced over Korea from 1950-1953.

Also my other story has the transition from Mustang to Meteor – RAAF 77 Sqn Meteor F.8 era in Korean War photos on show – https://heritageflightgeardisplays.wordpress.com/2010/06/25/raaf-flightgear-77-sqn-in-action-korean-war/

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Pilot photos from the 1940-1960s

A F-86 Sabre pilot with backpack parachute harness, K-1 flight suit, and P-1B flight helmet with visor and MS22001 oxygen mask.

B-70 Valkyrie ejection seat with a test pilot posing wearing some unknown flight suit and a Toptex flight helmet with a MS22001 oxygen mask.

F-86 Sabre pilot holding a P-3 flight helmet with MS22001 oxygen mask and wears a flight suit and backpack parachute.

A USAAF B-17 Flying Fortress bomber crew pose with their aircraft in England during WW2. They wear assorted flightgear from A-4 flight suits with QAC parachute harnesses, AN-6510/ S-2 seat parachute, B-3/4 series life preservers, Type C flight helmet, B-6 flight helmet, HS-38 headset and RAF and USAAF goggles. This photo shows just how diverse crew flightgear was AND how hard it was to maintain as using RAF and US geared mixed in required extra supply chain resources for US squadrons.

USAAF aircrew in England during WW2 at a mission briefing. They wear A-2 flight jackets, A-4 flight suits, service dress uniform, B-8 backpack parachute harnesses, A-11 flight helmets with AN-6510 goggles and A-14 oxygen masks.

US Navy Blue Angels pilot in late 1940s wearing a H-1 first generation jet flight helmet with boom microphone. He wears a nylon flight suit which was quickly replaced as these in a fire MELTED into the skin causing horrific burns side effects.

A few pilots at an airbase in the 1960s with F-101 Vodoos in background. The pilots wear garrison caps and K-2B flight suits.

F-86 Sabre pilot climbing into his aircraft with a backpack parachute harness, L-2A flight jacket and L-1A flight suit. He wears a squadron cap with unit colours.

A F-86 Sabre pilot with backpack parachute harness, K-1 flight suit, and P-1B flight helmet with visor and MS22001 oxygen mask.

A pilot wearing high altitude flight gear and a backpack parachute climbs into a F-104 Starfighter.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on PILOT PHOTOS JUNE 2012



After a few years on and off with a fair amount already written, i have decided to restart my project which is to write a book covering my flightgear collection. A key aim of the book is to encourage a better understanding of what flightgear is, examine some of the design work which went into some of the gear and show examples with photos.

This book idea has been a big project for a while and with a few more items now acquired, i can finally begin to finish the project and enlighten a whole new era of enthusiasts to how pilots and flightgear interacted in a aircraft.

The book will examine from WW2 to post Vietnam War, the flightgear of the USAF, US  Navy, RAAF and RAF.

The book will be illustrated with reenactment photo shoots with assorted warbird aircraft in Australia, in order to faithfully recreate the various eras in a understandable format in each chapter.

I aim to cover about 13 chapters / services and explain how specific types of flightgear was chosen, how it was used in combat or training and where possible show detailed examples from my collection.

More details will be released as the project progresses.