Most of us have seen the movie Top Gun. Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards spend a large amount of time strutting around in their flight suits during the movie–those green one-piece jumpsuits. Most of us never questioned the costume, and simply saw it as another military costume which pilots use. While this is certainly true, the flight suit is extremely functional to a pilot. Since the movie was filmed in the 1980s, flight suits have not changed very much. The have merely been streamlined a bit for more comfort and improved agility to pilots in flight. That’s not to say there aren’t bigger things for flight suits on the horizon: on the contrary. The future of flight suits looks very bright, indeed.
What Kinds Of Improvements Can Possibly Be Made To Flight Suits?
There are a variety of different conditions which may need to be addressed with fight suits. Nomex flight suits are currently the military standard for pilots, and they meet their needs well. However, while flight suits are typically designed ultimately for comfort and safety, they are not appropriate in all environments. Thus, there has been an increasing demand for flight suits or flame resistant undergarments and short-sleeved shirts which can provide flame resistant protection and moisture-wicking benefits to wearers while still remaining comfortable. Currently, the US Air Force is testing different types of materials for these flame resistant T-shirts. Wool, and Nomex are among the top contenders in the field. Once approved, these T-shirts could replace the standard-issue T-shirts given to military personnel.
Pilots who accelerate very quickly, as well as astronauts who are being propelled at high speeds into the atmosphere can often experience loss of consciousness as a result of rapid acceleration. When the craft moves at high speeds, blood will often be expelled via centrifugal force toward the feet. When this happens, loss of consciousness can occur which could be harmful or even fatal to a pilot who is at the controls. Thus, there have been developments in flight suits which can help prevent this centrifugal force phenomenon from occurring. The Libelle Suit is a form of anti-gravity Nomex flight suit which is being developed and tested by the Swiss. These pneumatic anti-gravity suits are being designed to help counteract the potentially deadly centrifugal force put on a pilot’s body, and currently look extremely promising. If successful, these flight suits will actually help eliminate the need for different regulating equipment on board aircraft. This means that not only will lives be saved, but it can also potentially reduce the overall financial cost of flight.
Another improvement being made to flight suits is in available colors. Currently, different colored flight suits have different meanings. For example, flight suits for crew members aboard space missions are usually orange during launch and re-entry. If actually leaving the shuttle and entering space the suit is usually white. There is actually a reason behind the colors of these flight suits. Orange is in case crew members need to be located should there be an emergency during launch or re-entry. White is reflective, which means that crew members will not absorb as much heat from space. The color of a flight suit can determine its ultimate purpose.
Improvements to flight suits are also being made to enhance the length of time a garment can be worn before it must be discarded or replaced. The weaves of the fabrics are being enhanced and changed so that pilots and crew can get longer life from their flight suits before noticing pilling of the fabric, flaring around the zippers, and shade variation. Initially, flight suits were designed for a single use. Now, flight suits are designed to be able to be washed and worn many times before having to be replaced. Extending the wearability of flight suits can help save time and money in the long run for pilots and the military.
While it may seem like flight suits are already serving their purpose and as good as they can possibly get, there are constantly new developments and improvements in the design, color, and functionality of them. More people are using Nomex flight suits as part of their jobs, either in the military or as a member of a shuttle crew or any other profession which requires the use of flame resistant clothing. The future of flight suits is certainly promising, offering far better wearability, comfort, and sustainability in the long run.
This article was written by Mark Gordon who is the Marketing Manager at Carter Industries Inc. To learn more about flight suits and Carter Industries Inc., click here.