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FLIGHT SUIT DEVELOPMENT - 1940


Protective Clothing for Aircraft with Limited Space, Model K/20/24

Fliegerschutzbekleidung für Flugzeuge mit beschränkten Raumverhältnissen,

Baumuster K/20/24

Lined, Electrically Wired Fliegerkombi


1940 saw the introduction of yet another Fliegerkombi design per LV 40, Nr.148, issued on 16 February. Specifically, the purpose of the new suit was to support electrically heated flight boots and gauntlets introduced per LB 40B, Nr.148 of the same date.

Clearly, the Luftwaffe developed the suit in tandem with the heated boots and gauntlets for some time prior to the issuance of the order referenced above- most likely during 1939.

Although the winter of 1939-1940 was particularly severe, the timing of the order did not receive its primary impetus from that winter. However, there is little doubt that the severity of that weather lent urgency to the development of the electric suit. The fact remains that, during the first winter of the war, the Luftwaffe simply did not have a suitable winter garment for pilots and crewman of fighters and other aircraft with restricted room. Winterfliegerkombis were simply too bulky for use in aircraft such as the Bf-109.

Interestingly, as a stopgap measure, the Luftwaffe issued Kombis acquired from the Austrian Air Force following the 1938 Anschluß. The leather in the Austrian garment was thinner and it had only lightly padded insulation in the lining, as opposed to the sheepskin fleece of the ponderous German Kombis. Indeed, contemporary photography shows pilots from JG26, JG53, and ZG26 wearing several models of the Austrian suits during the inclement winter of 1939-40. Doubtless, the necessity of their issue applied additional pressure on the Luftwaffe to complete development of the new lined electric suit.

It is important to note that, although the new electric suit was lined, it was NOT heated- it merely carried the 8 watt, 24 volt current- via a wire harness imbedded in the suit- to the heated boots and gauntlets.

Current was introduced into the suit by means of a wiring pig-tail mounted in the garment's left thigh pocket. The pig-tail terminated in a two-pole, female connector which attached to a short external breakaway cable, which, in turn, connected to a heat control rheostat on the cockpit's left bulkhead. Current traveled through the pig-tail, through the imbedded wire harness, and thence to connectors above the wrist cuffs and on the outside of the lower legs just under the knee. The connectors, which consisted of a leather flap with 2 female snap terminations, mated with similar male snap connectors mounted on the boots and gauntlets.

In general appearance, the suit most resembled the trim KWs/34 Sommerfliegerkombi, although the outer material differed, being a blue-gray twill of "Schappe" synthetic silk. The lining was 4mm thick artificial fur plush, which also was used to face the outer collar. In all other respects the K/20/24 was identical to the Sommerfliegerkombi.

Electrically wired Kombis have been noted comprised of alternative materials, specifically fleece-lined leather and fleece-lined "Schappe" blue-gray twill.


Photo Gallery

Click on Description to View Larger Image

Austrian Fliegerkombi - Front
Austrian Fliegerkombi - Rear


SOURCES:

Angolia & Schlicht, III, 248-250, 279, 283.

Barbas, Bernd, Aircraft of the Luftwaffe Fighter Aces, (Altglen, Pa.: Schiffer Military History, 1995), I, 147.

Held, Werner, Fighter! Luftwaffe Fighter Planes and Pilots, (London: Arms & Armour Press, 1979), 34.

Prien, I , 67.

Prodger, Mick J., Luftwaffe vs. RAF: Flying Clothing of the Air War, 1939-45, (Altglen, Pa.: Schiffer Military History, 1997), II, 114.

Author's collection and observations.


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