This is a Suit Bomber Pilots in World War II Actually Flew Wearing

More amazing exhibits are on display at the American AirPower Museum in Farmingdale, New York, than most people could get through in only a few hours. Better still, many of the two dozen or so aircraft on display in the main hangar are airworthy and have flown within the last 12 months.
American Airpower Museum 6 photos
Photo: Benny Kirk
American AirPower Museum Flight SuitAmerican AirPower Museum Flight SuitAmerican AirPower Museum Flight SuitAmerican AirPower Museum Flight SuitAmerican AirPower Museum Flight Suit
But try not to get too bogged down in checking out all these warbirds up close and personal. You'll wind up missing out on some other totally unique and quirky smaller exhibits. Many of these can be made even more enjoyable with an especially animated museum guide.

This especially generous staff member opted not to have his name revealed but says he served in the U.S. Navy for decades before taking a job with Pan-Am in the years before its complete collapse as the world's most popular airline. Nowadays, he volunteers his valuable time and knowledge to the museum as a tour guide, fundraiser, and general aeronautical savant.

What he had to show us hung up on hangars in one of the museum's mock D-Day ready rooms was a flight suit no bomber pilot would dare go up without. The AirPower Museum's called a number of different World War Two era strategic bombers home over the years. Everything from the same B-17 that stared in the Memphis Belle feature film, but also a B-25 Mitchel that was owned by Howard Hughes and flown with Elizabeth Taylor as a passenger at one point.

One thing nearly every crew on a bombing mission took up to altitude with was the latest and greatest in military flight suits of the time. The compound suit consisted of an inner fleece lining that looks about as comfortable as a sweater made of eyelashes. But no one dared to go much past 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) without this inner layer, lest their hand and feet frostbite up and fall off.

American AirPower Museum Flight Suit
Photo: Benny Kirk
Attached to the rear end of this inner lining is what can only be described as a standard power socket fastened by a length of insulated wire. Not only does it look like this wire could be attached to a toaster, but it also plugs into a power outlet much the same as the one said toaster would plug in to. The suit was manufactured by General Electric, which, apart from this venture, was also made by General Electric, who also made engines for American military aircraft.

But wait, of course, there's more! On top of one layer of insulated body-lining is a dense and heavy overcoat made out of the finest American 1940s vintage leather. This material is supplemented by a plush inner lining that seals in body heat between the three layers of clothing. This, added with electrically powered heating coils, resulted in a flight suit that greatly limited mobility.

Having to be consistently connected to 1940s power outlets in rickety aluminum-skinned bombers must not have been much fun either. It was the closest thing humans had to a cyborg in those days. But when it's -40C (-48F) outside at 30,000 feet (9,144 meters), you best believe no one complained about the extra heated layers. Our guide eagerly pointed out the inner workings of this fascinating piece of war history.

These suits were made in factories alongside some of the aircraft that sit inside the museum's main hangar. And we bet you thought the racing suits Formula One drivers have to wear looked uncomfortable and cumbersome. Eat your heart out, Lewis Hamilton.

American AirPower Museum Flight Suit
Photo: Benny Kirk
The specific flight suit that our guide had prepared for us that afternoon was purported to have served with the famed U.S. Eighth Air Force responsible for so many of the strategic daylight bombing campaigns that drove the Axis powers into submission during the way. Germany need not worry about an atomic bombing because cities like Dresden were all but ashes, and Germany unconditionally surrendered months before the bombs were dropped on Japan.

That was the level of fear, and ultimately, legitimate military might need that the strategic bombing initiative this flight suit took part in wielded over the enemy. It was one of the key decisive blows that brought the Axis to its knees. Believe it or not, this is just one of several period-correct military attire sets the museum has on display. And there's still a whole hangar full of neat stuff to see on top of all that.

This doesn't even scratch the surface of all the cool little trinkets at the former site of the Republic Aviation. It'd take hours to get through it all, and We hope you'll stick around to see what else is on display at this phenomenal living museum. Check back for more on autoevolution.
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