Air Force Experimenting with Two-Piece Flight Suits for Pilots, Aircrew

The Air Force is experimenting using more two-piece flight suits, such as the Airman Aircrew Combat Uniform (A2CU), instead of the one-piece flight suit, seen here.  (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Dallas Edwards)
The Air Force is experimenting using more two-piece flight suits, such as the Airman Aircrew Combat Uniform (A2CU), instead of the one-piece flight suit, seen here. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Dallas Edwards)

The U.S. Air Force is exploring the possibility of creating two-piece flight suits for all pilots and aircrew.

"We're looking at how we bring along two-piece flight suits to our aviators," said Maj. Saily Rodriguez, the female fitment program manage officer for the human systems program office within the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center.

Military.com spoke with Rodriguez Thursday about upgrading current fighter pilot and aircrew flight suits, which are typically a one-piece garment for men and women. Advantages of a two-piece suit include greater ease in using the bathroom and improved overall comfort.

"Two-piece flight suits are being looked at right now across the board; however, they need to go through a 'safe-to-fly' process to make sure they have been vetted and tested and can be used aboard aircraft," Rodriguez said.

That would mean the suits would need to comply with the same fire-retardant requirements current flight suits have.

Safety aside, a two-piece flight suit, which would be comprised of a standard top and bottom, would have to accommodate the needs of all aircrew members, she said.

"That includes, for example, going and relieving yourself, which would be simplified ... with a two-piece suit," Rodriguez said.

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A similar uniform is already in use in the Air Force for those flying cargo airlift or helicopters.

The service in 2017 said that airmen flying these aircraft -- anything aside from a fighter and without an ejection seat -- had begun wearing the Army Aircrew Combat Uniform, known as the Airman Aircrew Combat Uniform in the Air Force, or the A2CU. The uniform looks very much like the Air Force's Operational Camouflage Pattern, or OCP.

"The two-piece [A2CU] uniform has OCP-patterned fabric and the same fire-retardant properties as the flight suit, making it certified for wear by pilots flying aircraft without ejection seats," Capt. Kathleen Atanasoff told Military.com at the time. "Since the [uniform] pattern matches the OCP, it is often the uniform for downrange locations where many aircrews are operating," she said.

The A2CU in some cases has also been in use stateside, Air Force officials have said.

Commanders across the force had begun giving some airmen the option to wear the A2CU as a duty uniform during training or while deployed.

For example, that year, Air Mobility Command's director of operations authorized AMC pilots to wear the uniform for Exercise Mobility Guardian.

So far, feedback has been positive during experimentation with and testing of a two-piece flight suit, Rodriguez said.

"This is not an adventure that the Air Force is going solo -- other services are certainly looking at two-piece options as well," she said, referring to the Army.

Rodriguez could not say whether more airmen can expect to two-piece flight suit anytime soon.

"Right now, we are just making sure that the uniform is safe to fly," she said.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.

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