Although uncommon, fires do occasionally break out in the cockpit and other areas of planes. Soaring at tens of thousands of feet high leaves little room for error, and a fire certainly complicates things. It is of utmost importance for the professionals aboard airplanes to be assured that they are protected in the event of flash fires and heat malfunctions. The clothing that flight personnel wear must be of the highest quality and offer the greatest protection possible. One of the leading materials in the industry is Nomex. For more than fifty years Nomex has been protecting those in the US Military, as well as other markets as well. It is highly regarded for both its functionality, providing superior flame and heat protections, as well as its comfort and ergonomics.
In the late 1960s a researcher at the DuPont Company, Wilfred Sweeny, first developed the material now known as Nomex. A large number of race car drivers dying from intense burns and heats from crashes prompted the team at DuPont to start looking for fire protective clothing. Since its early beginnings, Nomex has been continually tested and updated to ensure that it delivers the greatest protection from flames, chemicals, and intense temperatures. Flight suits made from Nomex, especially the CWU 27 /p suit, are perfectly optimized to defend the human body. Made from 92% Nomex, with the remaining 8% comprised of the bullet proof Kevlar and anti-static fiber, these flight suits exceed the standards for fire-retardant clothing. For this reason the US Military chooses Nomex flight suits when equipping its pilots. But the suits are not reserved exclusively for pilots though. Realizing the potential of the protective material, the US Military also outfits overseas ground troops with Nomex suits to protect from the harsh environments they encounter.
Nomex is engineered from synthetic aromatic polyamide polymers, creating extensive chains of highly durable fibers. Although many only know polymers to be plastics, there are other forms of them that can make material such as Nomex. During manufacturing, Nomex is produced as either large sheets of fabric or as individual fibers that are subsequently woven into a fully fire-resistant cloth. These fabrics lie at the center of what makes Nomex so adept at defending against fire. Material made from Nomex can catch aflame, like many other fabrics, but that’s where it stops. Unlike other materials, Nomex extinguishes itself. When a part of the suit is charred or enflamed, the heat will not harm the rest of the suit, and protecting the person wearing it. Even better, if the suit does catch alight, an additional layer of protection is added. That is, when the Nomex suit is burning, its fibers absorb the heat and swell, adding a layer of insulation between the wearer’s skin and the heat.
One of the most popular flights suits is the CWU 27 /p. It is much beloved not only for its life saving protective features, but also for its comfort, lightweight, and durability. The US Military has far expanded its use beyond the air force, providing the suits for ground troops as well. They are widely used in tank deployments, offering protection from the heat released from explosions, chemicals, and even some radiation. The unique blend of the suit’s material also prevents accidental bursts of flame occurring, utilizing the anti-static material to prevent this. The zippers are also a favorite, made from high quality brass to prolong the life of the suit.
There is no wiggle room when manufacturing clothing to protect people’s lives. Only the best material will do when one is talking about protecting a human being, and Nomex has long been regarded as that material. The last half century has shown that Nomex protects best, and the US Military only chooses Nomex for that reason.