Dressed to fly
Fashion items such as flying jackets and pilot watches may be popular on and off the airfield, but thinking about what you wear when you fly could help keep you safe
For most pilots, dressing up to go flying is the last thing on their mind. You are more likely to see people in a pair of jeans, a fleece and trainers than a flying suit, unless you fly a warbird or are a display pilot. Similarly, while an Irvin jacket may be an essential piece of kit for Tiger Moth crew, even in summer, you are more likely to see these on the high street than at the local flying club.
Consider, however, the materials of the clothes you usually wear to fly. Natural materials, such as cotton, wool and leather, not only keep you comfortable but are far less flammable or likely to melt in a fire than man-made fibres. Professionals, of course, including many flying instructors, are obliged to wear a uniform which, hopefully, is not made out of polyester or acrylic. You are not very likely to be caught up in an aircraft fire but it does happen, and when it does you are better off wearing natural fibre clothing. Safety-minded aerobatic and even vintage aircraft pilots invest in flameproof overalls. In bright summer sunshine, but also in winter when the sun can be low but bright, a good pair of sunglasses is a must, especially those that offer both glare and UV protection. And with UK summers forecast to get even hotter, a cap or hat can help keep you cool; just make sure it’s not blocking your vision and limiting your lookout: turn baseball caps round in the cockpit. Like leather flying jackets, most pilot watches are worn by non-flyers. Away from the airfield, many people rely on their phone for the time but a watch is still essential for a pilot to keep on track and there is undeniable attraction in a nice mechanical one. Happily, there are a small number of manufacturers out there who offer them at reasonable prices. Big-name watches can cost as much as a small aeroplane and often have many functions you will never use, but they’ll give you bragging rights, if that’s your thing!
Below: self-winding reliability — who can resist a nice mechanical watch?
Above: leather jackets are warm and safer than nylon and polyester garments