Flight Suit Development - 1934
Flieger-Schutzanzug - See - Baumuster KW s/34
In 1934, a new Fliegerkombi was introduced which incorporated not only an alternative material intended to address overwater flight requirements, but also exhibited a completely new design intended to deal with observations and suggestions which almost surely filtered in from the DLV Fliegerschaft.
Rather than "Velveton" wool, the new suit employed brown calf leather as its outer shell, the absorption rate of water being the principle factor in material selection. Wearing a fabric suit while in the water following bailout or ditching would likely prove fatal, as the suit would absorb so much water as to hamper aircrew significantly while inflating and entering a life raft, activities which required considerable exertion.
Additionally, the suit's general configuration was modified extensively. Though the reasons are nowhere specifically laid out, the principal design change centered about the Bavarian's double-laid, buttoned closure in front, which necessitated the suit to be buttoned twice- a cumbersome process made more difficult in a situation which required utmost haste. It was also likely that manipulating buttons through leather would prove difficult in cold weather, as the employment of buttons in late war leather 2-piece suits would later illustrate. Replacing the buttoned closure was a zippered alternative mounted diagonally, opening from the right shoulder to left hip.
Other complimentary modifications eliminated all buttons. On the thigh cargo pockets, zippers replaced the flap/button closures. The hip pockets were eliminated altogether. The wrist cuff closures were converted to simple zippered ones. Though impossible to confirm, these changes likely arose from reports relating the difficulty and discomfort of manipulating the buttons at altitude, which required the removal of flight gloves to open and close the apertures.
The lone exception to the no-button policy was a triangular leather wind flap mounted on the right shoulder, secured with a single button to the right breast.
Another important innovation was the incorporation of a horizontally mounted zippered fly (almost certainly the result of Fliegerschaft feedback).
To secure the loose end of an oxygen mask hose, and to accommodate the A-clamp on that device, a 3 cm wide loop leather was sewn to the front of the suit below the main diagonal zipper, and right of and below the breastbone.
The snap-strap/ring closure apparatus underneath the collar was simplified, with the number of straps being reduced from two to one.
It should be mentioned that the snap-strap (so frequently seen on garments dating after 1935) used to secure the wrist cuff zipper closure was not employed in the initial design and production of this suit.
Although no specimens of this suit in its earliest production configuration are known to the author, there exists a photograph of such a suit being worn by an aviation cadet in Flugzeugführerschule A/B 10. See Carlsen and Meyer, 165.
Angolia & Schlicht, III, 245-246.
Carlsen & Meyer, 165.
Author's collection and observations.
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