Spotlight on Safety: Don’t Get Burned

Chris Hill Top Story

Photo: iStock/Anusak Rojpeetipongsakorn

Mar. 18, 2021

The case for fire-resistant flight apparel.

This month, we feature Dave Blair, chief pilot for safety for Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company, in a brief Spotlight on Safety (SOS) message recommending that flight crews wear flame-resistant (FR) flight suits, gloves, and boots.

As I prepared to throw in my support for Dave’s message, I thought, “How hard can this be? I’ll recycle an old HAI safety tip, do a bit of research, add a few thoughts, and call it good.”

I found a 2017 safety tip in a social media post with several positive comments extolling the virtues of FR flight suits. I also found opposing views—from haters on social media. I quickly discovered that, like so many things in today’s culture, even a suggestion that someone consider wearing clothing that protects against fires could be met with such, well, flaming animosity.

So perhaps making the case for FR flight gear isn’t so easy after all. But I’ll press on—and let the spirited debate resume.

I get it. Wearing an FR flight suit, particularly in the summertime heat, isn’t fun. I wore them in the military for 20 years in all climates, more because I was required to than because I wanted to.

Many pilots in the commercial world enjoy the freedom to choose what they wear in the cockpit. Most knowingly roll the dice every day and wear undergarments and outerwear that will do little to mitigate the misery that might await them in a survivable impact and post-crash fire. Others proudly don the latest moisture-wicking fibers and high-tech fabrics, including many non-FR flight suits that look really cool and promise maximum comfort. (Many of those same fabrics will melt to your skin if it gets hot enough for only a few seconds.)

I could add another thousand words on the benefits of wearing personal protective equipment. I’ll spare us both the extra burden. The truth is, most of you are well aware of the lifesaving benefits FR attire provides.

If you’re still averse to trying FR wear, please watch this Rotorcraft Pro Media Network YouTube video showing burn tests of DuPont™ Nomex® fabric, FR-treated cotton fabric, and untreated cotton fabric and imagine that you or one of your employees is the test subject up in flames.

Consider investing in flight uniforms that prioritize protection over pretentiousness and survival over style. It could very well save your skin one day!

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