Dress for the Task

Think about what you are wearing before you get in the cockpit.

You’ve probably noticed that test pilots, law enforcement and emergency response pilots, and pilots flying military airplanes generally wear flight suits. You are also likely aware that these pilots don’t wear these garments just to fit into some kind of fraternity or to look cool. Flight suits serve a purpose. While you may not want to don a flight suit to take off on a $100 hamburger flight, you should take into consideration what you wear when you fly.

Flight suits were first introduced to protect pilots in open cockpits from cold temperatures and to provide a place to put loose articles. They are now available in various thicknesses depending on the mission. But one common thread in modern flight suits is that they are made from fire retardant materials, such as Nomex.

You can minimize your injuries in case of a post crash or inflight fire by wearing clothing with a low flammability. You should stay away from materials such as polar fleece, silk or cotton and materials that melt, such as nylon.

While cotton clothing is generally highly flammable, jeans are great because they are made with a tight weave. Wool and leather clothing also provides great protection because the material resists flames and has a slow burn rate, although it may be a bit too warm to wear in the summer. Many synthetic materials are also fire resistant.

But it is not only the type of material that makes up the clothing that matters. How they fit makes a difference as well. Tight fitting clothes are more difficult to ignite than flowing, looser articles. Loose articles of clothing could also interfere with control movements, so they should be avoided in the cockpit.

Hopefully you will never encounter a fire in the cockpit. But, if you ever do, you will be glad you thought ahead and wore materials that won’t make a bad situation even worse.

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