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

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