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Artifact Friday: K2B Flight Suit

K2B, very light, man’s suit, flying, 1964.

Yes, that is what the tag reads on the flight suit displayed in our most recent exhibit-Short Strips and Tight Grips.

Early flight suits were wool coats and pants with huge flight boots. They also had some electrically heated suits for certain crews.

These first “suits” protected flight crews from extreme atmospheric elements while flying the early aircraft.

As aviation became more advanced, so did flight clothing.

The 1950s introduced blue cotton suits to both the Air Force and Navy, but soon after the K2B was developed. This suit was also cotton, however, instead of blue it was sage green. The typical K2B had six pockets-two on the chest and four on the legs. Additionally, it had a pencil/pen holder along with another pocket on one of the arms. This flight suit was advertised as more fireproof, yet flight suits would not become fire retardant until the Nomex was introduced later.

Fun fact: Some K2Bs used during the war were treated with Borax making them somewhat fireproof.

The K2B was the most common flight suit used during the Vietnam War. The museum is home to many such flight suits, but the one featured here belonged to Max Hall. He wore this on his helicopter missions in Vietnam.

His K2B has patches depicting that he was an Army Aviator, a member of the Arkansas National Guard, and a part of the U.S. Military Assistance Command.

(The National Guard patch was specifically identifying the 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team which has an aviation branch.)

Flight suits are still used today by our aviation members of the United States military. While these suits are in fact fireproof, lighter, and provide more protection than earlier suits, remember, the K2B still paved the way for this advancement!

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