Ilmavoimat 1920's- 1940's
Finnish Friitala style Ilmavoimat flying helmet
This kit combines a leather flying helmet, a cold weather face mask and a pair of flying goggles. The whole design indicates it was used for open cockpits without provision for radio communication. Photographic evidence shows the use of this style of kit in the Finnish Air Force from the 1920's onwards. Towards the end of its “career” it seems to have been used predominantly in basic training, referring to the pictures of Ilmavoimat pilot cadets.
The manufacturer which comes into mind when relating to Finnish leathercraft for the Ilmavoimat is Friitala Nahkatehdas Oy, a brand established in 1892, and still active today. Between 1939 and 1945 WWII the whole Friitala production was destined for the Finnish army.
In the late 1920's Friitala started to manufacture leather garments for motorists, motorcyclists and aviators. In fact, the helmet featured on our site is almost identical, with minor differences, to a motoring helmet commercialized in the 1930’s. Careful analysis of pictures and reel stills reveal several variations with either larger cheek flaps, larger collars with three push buttons, thicker lining, double chin straps, or double loops in lieu of buckles. If those are general issue or private purchase items cannot be ascertained. Reportedly, the Finnish army had separate contracts with Friitala for their equipment, but we have no official documentation to confirm this.
The leather flying helmet is constructed of six segments in a cartwheel pattern, the joints being reinforced at the top by means of a leather patch. The latter is not forming a loop, thus cannot be used for easy removal of the helmet. Two earflaps are covering small perforations on each side, and they can be fixed in the closed or rolled-open position by means of two press studs. The adjustable chin strap features metal eyelets to protect the strap from being torn at the perforations and is sewn on to the left cheek. It buckles to the right by means of a leather loop and metal buckle.
The press studs, embossed "ST" and "CK", are of the early style also seen on WWI and inter-war German and French equipment.
At the front brim an additional strap (also with eyelets) is present to allow some size adjustment. The neck and throat of the wearer are protected by a sewn on, four segment leather collar which is closed by means of two additional snap fasteners. (These two snap fasteners seem to be absent on the commercial motorists helmet "N:o 162")
The helmet is lined with soft, brownish wool/blanket cloth with a grey/green "dot" pattern. No manufacturer's labels or markings are present, only a washed out cardboard (size) label which is sewn to the lining along the back seam.
Leather face mask
The face mask, constructed of he same type of leather, features somewhat larger snap fasteners which are embossed with the name "Stocko". It is identical to the mask "N:o 171" on the advertisement, which is referred to as “…for motorcyclists and pilots…”
The mask is based on two main segments, the large one covering most of the face, while a narrow section protects the chin of the wearer. Two perforations for the eyes, one for the nose and one for the mouth are present. The separate eye openings are surrounded by a sewn on fabric strip providing some sealing characteristics when goggles are worn. The center perforation is covered with a sewn on leather segment to protect the nose from the cold while providing the possibility to breathe. The mouth opening can be left open or closed by means of a perforated leather strip. The latter is sewn on one side and can be fixed in the closed or rolled open position by means of two snap fasteners.
The mask as a whole is lined with soft, tan colored chamois.
A strap webbing consisting of five red-brown adjustable elastic bands and appropriate fittings, loops and hooks, attaches the mask to the wearer's head.
The flying goggles are similar to the pattern occasionnally seen from WWI on. No markings are present. The goggles consist of angular and curved alloy frames, perforated with a series of aeriation holes at the top and on the bottom, attached to each other by a leather strip They contain curved non-laminated clear glass lenses. The latter, rather thick and seemingly not to be shatterproof, can be removed and replaced by opening two hinged metal flaps on each side. An artificial fur cushion is stitched to the frames, while a simple adjustable elastic strap with loop and hook completes the outfit.