Flight Suit Design Changes - 1938
One of the most thoroughgoing changes to Luftwaffe Fliegerkombi design occurred at some point during 1938, although no extant order details the specifics of this change.
As early as 1936, the Luftwaffe experimented with a quick-release mechanism which enabled the wearer or another individual to open the suit by means of a laced aperture which extended from in front of the left shoulder, more or less vertically, down to the left hip.
A cotton string lanyard with a metal pull-ring mounted at the lanyard's midpoint secured the laced aperture. When pulled, the ring drew out the lanyard through a small hole in the front of the suit and released the laced aperture. To guard against accidental release, the pull-ring was secured underneath a triangular flap and snap.
Although collectors almost uniformly regard this feature as a hallmark of mid to late production Fliegerkombis, the Luftwaffe commenced development of this feature as early as 1936, based on the example of a flight suit which now resides in a collection in England. The suit, while clearly a very early specimen of the 1936 pattern, has a quick-release apparatus installed. The suit is marked, [Fl.Kdo.Bln.][9.Kompanie II]- presumably, Flieger-Kommando-Bataillon. Although the unit's mission is unknown, there is some possibility that it was involved with equipment design, and that additionally, the suit referenced is a prototype of some sort.
The precise reasoning behind the development of the quick-release is a subject of much conjecture among collectors, with opinion divided more or less evenly between the two alternatives below:
The mechanism was designed to enable the wearer to exit from the suit quickly in the event that the main zipper was jammed during a fire, bailout over water, or similar emergency.
The mechanism was designed to enable flying personnel to more easily treat a comrade wounded in the thorax. At high altitude, blood freezing or coagulating in the main zipper would effectively jam the device, necessitating cutting open the suit with a knife- a hazardous undertaking in a rocking, or pitching aircraft.
The author is inclined to agree with the latter alternative. In a "test" with a Fliegerkombi in the author's collection, it proved to be a topological impossibility to exit the suit through the quick release. Additionally, inclusion of the quick-release in a suit manufactured in December, 1938 (the earliest production/issue example known to the author) would support the supposition that the Luftwaffe standardized on the feature due to experience accrued during the Spanish Civil War.
In any event, the quick-release feature became a permanent feature included in all Fliegerkombis manufactured during the 1938-1939 time period and after.
Click on Description to View Larger Image
|1938 Sommerfliegerkombi - Front|
|1938 Sommerfliegerkombi - Rear|
|Quick Release - Closed|
|Quick Release - Open|
|Quick Release - Interior View|
|LBA Marking Under Right Collar|
|"Karl Heisler" Label|
Author's collection and observations.
Back to Fliegerkombi Intro