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Helmet Covers 
by: Ron Kraan
From the beginning of flight, the aviators had the urge to paint up their planes and gear.
The early leather helmets were sometimes adorned with names and unit insignia. Later with the introduction of the first helmet-like hard hats it became easier to paint them. In the United States the Korean War gave us some nicely decorated H-4 helmets. Through the ages, the Airforce and Navy both went their separate ways. The Airforce painted their helmets, while the Navy used reflective tape also.

Not many other countries around the world have done this. Very little examples are known of decorated Soviet helmets, the only ones to surface are the helmets used with display teams (Russian Knights, Sky Hussars). The United Kingdom started out with little markings on their early Mk1's and also the helmets of the Red Arrows are a nice example. This article will deal with the decorated helmets of the Royal Netherlands Airforce (RNLAF) as this gives a nice example of methods and materials used.

Among the first helmets to be decorated by the RNLAF was the RAF type Mk1 helmet but it became in to fashion on the single visor equipped HGU-22/P shells. Besides adding reflective tape to the back of the helmet (to increase visibility by night) they started out painting unit markings on the helmet cover. A nice example is pictured here, the 312 Squadron emblem featured two lightning flashes and also the Squadron colors were hand painted on the cover. But in this case the cover was sprayed black and the Squadron markings were cut out of a large adhesive sheet.

This became common practice with the different squadrons and some very good artists appeared among life support personnel. One of the more famous ones being Ad van Spaendonk, this 314 SQN life support specialist added a personal touch to every helmet cover he painted. All of his covers showed the 314 (Redskins) Indian. Besides this Native American he also added a personal item to it. For instance a pilot named Mike had a singing Indian holding a microphone. Bright colors were no exception and regulations did not seem to exist. 

The 306 SQN covers showed a giraffe and these were also personalized. When the first double visor sets came in use (HGU-26/P) the also did not escape the decoration fever. 

In the early eighties, the life support shops started to use felt as a cover material. This started together with the use of Scott leather edge rolls and gray painted helmet shells. The felt was printed with the unit marking and the pilot call sign was later added. The difference can be seen between both 311 SQN helmet covers shown here. 

Also a cloth type material was used with 316 SQN. On some occasions there were some experiments at 322 SQN with leather on the cover. All of these materials were glued on. 

With the introduction of the HGU-55/P there was little room on the helmet to decorate. This was overcome by painting the leather visor cover! The paint started to crack and wore out. Some units send their covers to the local patch supplier who had the marking of their unit sewn on. Now days, the painted covers still are around, as are the sewn ones. 313 SQN for instance has a small tiger patch attached to their helmet cover after years of painting them tiger striped.
Hopefully this will keep on as it gives a nice colorful touch to the green/gray flight gear.

Flightgear Online would like to thank Gert Jan Berger for his photos and experience on the matter.


"Venz" /  "Hud"  flightgear on-line 2002/2003