Discover The Origin Of Flightsuits

The clothes worn when flying an aircraft such as airplanes, gliders and helicopters are called flightsuits. One of the purposes of these suits is to keep the one wearing it warm. They are known to be durable, even acting as a fire retardant. They are also practical, featuring lots of pockets. Sometimes used as a combat uniform, the flightsuit may show rank insignia. It is designed similarly to a jumpsuit.

The basic jumpsuit design and the presence of several pockets in the flightsuit are born of a need to keep warm and to prevent the loss of articles. Aviation in its infancy included the experience of being exposed to unheated and open cockpits, this need for warmer clothing. After this, the flightsuit underwent many incarnations, most with the goal of keeping the wearer warm. In the First World War, different types of flight jackets and pants coverings were introduced for the purpose of warding off the low temperatures that high altitude flying and low oxygen levels bring about. Leather made its appearance around this time and because it offered other benefits aside from keeping warm like protection from flying debris, it soon became popular. In 1917, Australian aviator Frederick Sidney Cotton introduced the Sidcot suit which are flightsuits that effectively kept pilots warm. The Sidcot endured until the 1950's and were used by the RAF.

In the Second World War, electrically heated suits were made by Lion Apparel with the help of General Electric. This was a necessity for patrol and bomber crews because at an altitude of 30,000 feet, feel could instantly freeze if it gets in contact with any metal. With the advent of pressurized cabins, the need for warmth became less of a priority. Waist gunners, though still had to contend with cold. The B-29 Superfortress finally made bulky flight wear unnecessary due to its fully pressurized crew cabin and remote controlled gun turrets.

Fighter pilots operated in tight confines so they needed a flightsuit that worked well with their environment. The AN-S-31 flightsuit was developed, which was made of either wool or tight weave cotton that worked as a fire retardant and wind resistance. Fire-protective flightsuit, helmets, goggles, masks, gloves and footwear and flak jackets were also developed. The G-suit came into existence to prevent blood pooling into the lower extremities as the pilot executed high-G combat maneuvers. When this happens, he will faint or "blackout". The G-suit is designed to ensure that the blood flow to the brain is sufficient to keep the person wearing it functioning. By the 1960's, more specialized suits came into being to facilitate higher altitude flying and finally, space flight.

Air forces around the world mostly use Nomex, which is a type of lightweight fabric made out of spun aramid. Its fire protective properties are a distinct advantage. While still currently using the BDU or the Battle Dress Uniform, the US Air Force is set to completely replace it with the ABU uniform as Fiscal Year 2011 ends on September 30 this year. The Airman Battle Uniform or ABU differs only from the ACU because of the inclusion of slate blue in its colors. This is also what differentiates it from the current Battle Dress Uniform.

Flightsuits have come a long way since aviation began. As technology progresses man will never stop looking for better options for functionality, practicality and durability. The ABU may be all set to replace the BDU but it will only last until a better option comes along.

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