Author Topic: A Beginner’s Guide to US Military Leather Flight Jackets  (Read 16 times)

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Offline W1RC

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A Beginner’s Guide to US Military Leather Flight Jackets
« on: November 08, 2018, 09:30:31 AM »
A Beginner’s Guide to US Military Leather Flight Jackets.

This document was originally an eBay Guide I wrote about twenty years ago. Earlier this year eBay decided to discontinue guides so I expanded it and am happy to offer it to this venue as a service to its members and visitors.

This is a BRIEF beginner’s guide to the two most popular and commonly found US military leather flight jackets, the “Jacket, Flying, Type A-2," commonly referred to as the “A-2” and the US Navy “Jacket, Flyer’s, Intermediate, Type G-1” or simply the “G-1”. These military issue flight garments are often referred to by the uninformed as “bomber jackets” but this is inaccurate. This designation is probably more accurate when referring to the shearling lined “Type B-3” (and derivatives) but is outside the scope of this discussion.
The A-2 was worn originally flight crews in the US Army Air Corps (USAAC) , the US Army Air Force (USAAF) and later the US Air Force (USAF). The G-1 was worn by flight crew in the US Navy (USN), the US Marine Corps (USMC) and the US Coast Guard (USCG). Although some non- flying personnel were able to purchase one of these coveted jackets or by obtain one through “social engineering” methods they could wear them off duty. However they were not officially issued to these ranks and consequently they were not able to wear them on duty.

A-2s were originally made of horsehide but later they were made of goatskin and cowhide. G-1s made prior to the 1980s are goatskin but those made after can be either goatskin or cowhide, likely as a cost-saving measure. Goatskin is pretty much the leather of choice for jackets because it resists abrasions the best. Horsehide is also a good choice because it is very durable.

The A-2 was issued to air crew from 1931 to 1943 after which they were only issued as “replacements” for those who had previously been issued one. The last wartime contracts were let in December 1943. Newcomers were issued cloth flight gear. Forty five years later, in 1988, the USAF began issuing the A-2 to flight crew once again.

The G-1 (and its predecessors) has been pretty much continuously issued since the 1940s to US Navy, USMC and USCG officers and enlisted personnel on active flight status with the exception of a very brief period from 1979 to early 1981.

An excellent overview discussion of flight jackets may be found on Wikipedia.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_jacket

Detailed treatise on the A-2 on Wikipedia

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/A-2_jacket

and the G-1.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/G-1_military_flight_jacket

Here is some general information and opinion I wrote in another thread on the G-1.

This is probably going to sound like heresy but, as a jacket for daily wear, I am not a great fan of the MILSpec USAAC/USAAF/USAF A-2. Personally I prefer the US Navy G-1 “Jacket, Flyer’s, Intermediate Type G-1” flight jacket to the A-2 jacket which is far more iconic and better known but in my opinion not as good as the G-1. The difference in appearance is obvious; the G-1 has a mouton collar where the A-2 collar is leather. They also do not have an inside pocket.

The main advantage of the G-1 in my opinion is the pleated “bi-swing” back that offers far more freedom of arm movement than the A-2. There is also an inside pocket. In fact I always wondered why the A-2 didn’t offer this feature. I find when wearing my military issue A-2 I definitely notice that my arm movement is restricted by the jacket.

There were a number of contractors who made them, including Star Sportswear, Brill Brothers, Imperial, Orchard M/C Distributors, etc. I have always liked the Star Sportswear made jackets the best; I think their leather is a bit better than the rest. I also prefer earlier production, 1966-1973 the best. This is, of course, my opinion and open to argument.

The date is usually shown as two digits in the contract or spec number. Labels are either woven which indicate earlier production or printed which indicate post 1972 production.
DSA100-71-C-0535 = 1971

Go for one with the woven label over the printed label and you will be very happy. Be prepared to replace the knit cuffs and waistbands as you would with any vintage jacket that has them.

The best online resource for information on these and other flight jackets is www.vintageleatherjackets.org/. This is a “forum” which predates the “blog” format but is essentially a peer-to-peer information exchange web site.

These jackets are plentiful and relatively easy to find on eBay. However good original military jackets are not. There are many reproductions, “knockoffs” and military “style” jackets that are not authentic government issue items so you have to know what you are doing. The advantage to eBay and PayPal is that you have recourse if the item is not accurately described and want to return it once you have a chance to examine it. There is also a BUY/SELL message board on vintageleatherjackets.org.

CAVEAT EMPTOR: There are hundreds if not thousands of A-2 “style” or “reproductions” that range from the highest quality jackets costing well in excess of $1,000.00 to the worst junk offshore-made garments imaginable. Some airlines and law enforcement agencies also use an A-2 style jacket and these are often of the highest quality. However, detailed discussion of these is not part of this treatise.
Copyright 2018 all rights reserved. Free distribution in its entirety is allowed.

My email is w1rc@near-fest.com. Comments and suggestions are welcome.