A fighter aircraft pilot’s life is full of tough challenges and experiences. In a profession where mistakes can lead to life-or-death situations, it is imperative that they are equipped with the best facilities in order to perform their task to the best of their abilities.
The nature of a pilot’s job sometimes requires flying high and in extreme conditions. Atmospheric pressure and composition at certain heights put the pilot in situations where the lack of proper equipment could be very harmful. To face such conditions, pilot suits have to be equipped and built with the capability to sustain the pilot under duress.
Due to the stress that the suit faces as a result of being exposed to rough conditions, it has to be checked and approved every 6 to 12 months. Such tests include assessing the equipment hoses and pipes which are prone to leaks, condition tests and pressure tests.
The pilot can choose a three lettered code for each piece of equipment and accordingly, a unique serial number is assigned to each piece. A Gripen pilot’s suit works as a system with each piece having a very specific function, thus making it necessary to wear and maintain each of them. Each pilot also wears absorbent innerwear that absorbs sweat and humidity while preventing condensation. The suits also come in fire and water resistant variants.
Each part of the suit serves a very specific purpose e.g. the jacket has multiple storage options for emergency (medical kits, tools etc.), floatation device and shoulder pads for quick ejections along with automatic pressure control systems that send data to the Gripen system regarding performance. The Gripen system uploads actual pressure data into this part of the equipment.
The equipment includes a survival jacket and two additional helmets. A hat is also available that helps the pilots to set the helmets. The helmet contains two visors, one made of shatterproof plastic and another which acts as glare protection at higher altitudes. The entire suit equipment is checked while wearing them through a test system before every first take off of the day.
The suit is a design and engineering marvel. It can sustain and protect the pilot and acts as an interface between the air and ground staff. That is what makes the flight suit such an incredible equipment.
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