JET ERA SWISS AF FLIGHT SUITS
As with other air forces, the flight suits in service with the Swiss Air Force followed the development of the aircraft on which they were operated. As open cockpit airplanes flew faster and higher, exposure to the elements, primarily wind and temperature were primary challenges to crews operating early aircraft.
Protective clothing as head coverings, eyewear, facemasks, (electrically heated) jackets and pants, one-piece coverall suits, gloves
and boots were developed and designed in order to mitigate these harsh conditions. Such gear became standard and much of it remained in use up to and during the early World War II, until tecnological progress allowed the pilot to be fully enclosed within the fuselage of an aircraft.
The introduction of pressurized and heated aircraft cockpits (partially) eliminated the need to wear bulky heated suits to stay warm at high altitudes. The one-piece flying suit became standard issue for pilots and aviators in military service. It provided a simplified and comfortable dress and featured suitabily placed pockets large enough to accommodate charts and other equipment.
As far as Swiss AF is concerned, a suit with these characteristics was in use from 1947 on the first jets like the DH-100 Vampire, made of heavy fabric was previously used on propeller-driven aircraft as the P-51.
Designed locally, it included the rank holder sewn on the left chest, a notepad pocket and pen holder fitted to the right thigh, probably inspired by a contemporary British suit, features that would be carried over to later models.
The first 'modern' flight suit introduced, made of non-flame-retardant cotton; as its definition says, in use from the 1950s until the late 1980s with militia pilots.
It included the features of the previous one, with the addition of a card holder clip attached to the left thigh and buttoned side openings.
The orange version of the Pilotenkombi 50 had a few differences: the manufacture with a heavier type of cotton than the grey Pkombi 50 and the shape of the collar.
It was used primarily by GRD (the Federal Procurement Agency, Gruppe für Rüstungsdienste - Armament Services Group) and helicopter pilots, but was also worn over a period of time by the Patrouille Suisse (PS) pilots .
Sporting the typical TAZ83 "Alpenflagge" camo, the Panzerkombi was tested during 1977 as a possible means to improve the chances of escape
and survival in case of ejection over enemy territory.
We don't have any details, but most likely they must have been "off the shelf" standard configured tank suits.
In aviation, as in other fields, fire is an ever-present hazard.
In the early 1960’s, DuPont developed the first ever flame-retardant textile naming it "Nomex". The full chemical name of Nomex is poly(m-phenylenediamine isophthalamide) (!!)
Nomex won’t melt, drip or support combustion in the air. A Nomex flight suit was initially developed for the US Navy, then Nomex expanded into other sectors as well, such as motorsport, firefighting etc.
Nowadays the majority of military flight suits as the below ones and other personal gear are made of the same, enhanced, material.
The first ones introduced into service in Switzerland during the mid '80 were sage green US originals modified with the rank holder,notepad pocket and map clip; in addition also zipped side openings were implemented.
Applied on the le left chest a Velcro pad was implemented in order to carry a patch with the pilot's name; other Velcro pads in different places, size and shape were sewn on according to the unit/squadron etc. patches to be applied.
Licensed domestic production of flight suit of this design took place during the early 1990s.
The major difference with the previous model is the application, instead of notepads and clips, of Velcro strips on both thighs, in order to be able to apply a series of pads/notepads and pockets of various sizes adapted to the mission to be carried out.
Patches' Velcro pads are now applied with a standard layout; also the "classic" (plastic) rank plates are currenty being replaced with a fabric model secured with Velcro.
The orange CWU-28 is mainly used (as traditionally) by the armasuisse (formerly GRD) test/factory pilots and by helicopter loadmasters during logging operations for obvious visibility reasons.
Like the locally manufactured CWU-73, it has the same layout as CWU-27, but without the rank holder.
Probably during 1999 season (in 1999 the Patrouille Suisse celebrating 35 years of operations) a "party suit" was implemented, as a locally manufactured CWU-73.
As its definition suggests, the CWU-73 was not used during flight operations, but only at formal/social events.
Since its replacement by the "red model", the CWU-73s have been assigned to the PS ground support crew.
In 2016, a red "party suit" replaced the blue CWU-73, which has been assigned (in 2019) to ground crew.
The suit is made of no fire retardant fabric with the PS logo embroidered on the right arm and behind the neck.