For me, flying is all about feeling. When I take my vintage Piper Cub into the air, there’s nothing else that feels quite like it. The freedom, the space, the views.
On the lucky days that I get to indulge my passion, I like to immerse myself in it fully. Spending time at the airfield, drinking tea with like-minded people and tucking into a massive burger – all these things add to the whole experience.
I also like to look the part. I’m completely unashamed to admit that I want people to think I’m a pilot when they see me; it makes me feel good. And there’s nothing that screams ‘flyer’ louder than the original American military type A2 flying jacket.
Over the summer months you’ll see countless numbers of them worn by people at museums and airfields, big and small. Every single one unique, slightly different from the next. You’ll see custom patches sewn on, full-size painted backs or just a seriously battered look from years of wear and use.
I’ve had my flying jacket for about ten years. It’s been with me on virtually every flight I’ve been on, and I feel naked flying without it. One of my favourite things about it is that unlike other clothes or garments, it gets so much better with age! Once you’ve worn it in, scuffed the cuffs a little, really broken the leather in, it becomes more than just an item of clothing. It’s a really special and treasured personal possession that will, if looked after, hopefully last as long as your flying career, and indeed your lifetime.
The classic design of the A2 dates back to 1931, and it was originally developed with open cockpit flying in mind – hence the solid functional pocket snaps and rugged construction. The collar can be folded up to offer some protection from the elements, and the sturdy zip is covered with a flap to stop wind penetrating. The slim fit design allows ease of movement in cramped cockpits, and its somewhat short appearance is a feature that has endured from the days when men wore high-rise trousers. Matched with a clean pair of jeans or chinos, the A2 looks as good today as it ever has.
As I’ve mentioned, A2s come in a myriad of slightly different designs and features. The reason I’ve chosen this particular iteration is because I believe it’s the best you can get. There are plenty of features I really like about it. In particular, the riveted hooks at the top and bottom of the zip aren’t flimsy and won’t break or get pulled off. The quality of the Steerhide leather is fantastic. The lining is heavy duty cotton, and the overall weight of the jacket suggests the uncompromising quality of its materials.
I think the standout appeal, though, is in the details you don’t see. I headed to Scotland to see for myself just how the jackets are made, and I couldn’t have been more impressed. The factory is exactly as you would imagine: small, old Victorian buildings nestled at the bottom of a picturesque valley in the small town of Galashiels. Brick chimneys rise from the elongated red tile buildings, and when you go through the doors there’s a production area to your right, and a showroom and office to your left. In all there’s about 25 employees, the vast majority of whom have been working there for decades.
I was really impressed to learn that when an order for a jacket comes in, it isn’t handed from seamstress to seamstress at different stages of the build – it’s handled throughout by the same person, so from start to finish one craftsman or woman creates your jacket. It really is a joy to watch them work.
For more detail and images follow the link below.