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Flight Jackets, Nylon MA-1 CWU-36/P CWU-45/P B-15

Started by Bob Hudson , Nov 20 2006 12:57 PM

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#1 Bob Hudson

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Posted 20 November 2006 - 12:57 PM

While the old leather flight jackets are the sexy ones to have, there are a lot of modern synthetic fabric flight jackets around that have a lot of interest from collectors and folks who just want a nice jacket to wear.

The most common seems to be the MA-1 type, an all season flight jacket. I believe these were issued from about 1950 to the early 1980's. These are typically sage green with the orange lining, but were issued in other colors. The orange lining was a 1960's change so that downed pilots could reverse the jacket and be more visible to rescuers. I am seeing more and more MA-1's with what appear to be official labels (labels are in the left pocket) saying made in Korea, or Indonesia or someplace other than the US, and there have always been a lot of civilian copies of the MA-1's available. Some of the more expensive MA-1's are made in the USA by Alpha industries. Collectors especially value ones from the 60's and 70's and they can sell for $100 and up and if you find a rare one with unit patches it can be double that. I have not seen any prices for 50's models, but I imagine one that old would be very desirable. Newer ones in smaller sizes can be had for perhaps only $30 but even XL Alpha's can sell for that amount. This XL Alpha sold for $45. It has an ALPHA tag on the outside, next to the sleeve pocket, so I suspect it's a civilian version, but otherwise made to full military specs:

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Here's a CWU 45/P flight jacket, first issued in 1977. This is considered a winter flying jacket. Unlike the MA-1's, which are basically untreated nylon, these are treated for fire resistance and are overall more heavily constructed. The CWU 45/P's are still being issued to military flight crews. These jackets are generally more expensive than the MA-1's, but still vary a lot, going from $30-300.

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A lighter weight version of the CWU-45/P is the CWU-36/P, which is considered a summer weight flight jacket. It has the same Nomex fire resistance as the CWU-45/P and is also current issue. Prices are a little less than the 45/P, but, again, vary wildly from $30 to perhaps $200.

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The grandaddy of all of these nylon flight jackets was the B-15, which was first made in a cloth version in WWII and then in nylon beginning in about 1946 (I haven't had one to photograph so if you have one, please post). It had a fur collar and that apparently got in the way of parachute harnesses and other gear so they created the MA-1 as a replacement. Official issue B-15's will have black labels and the US Air Force stencil on the left shoulder. They can easily go for $200-400. Even used reproductions can sell for $80. Remember, as with all clothing, reproductions have to be made with fabric content and fabric care tags that are not in the military versions. Often times the reproductions will have tags in the collar (or in the pocket as in the case of the MA-1's) that look like military tags, but elsewhere they will have the fabric care tags. With unit patches and/or pilots name tags on them, any of these styles of nylon flight jackets could go for $500-1,000 at a non-ebay store, but again, with careful shopping you could end up with examples of all four for perhaps little more than $150-200 and have a nice collection of flight jackets for less than the price of one G-1 leather jacket.

#2 Greg Robinson

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Posted 20 November 2006 - 01:18 PM

I bought my first unissued Air Force MA-1 back in the '70's and it was a bit on the pricey side but it's very well made. I still have it although it's showing it's age. Then in the '80's I bought one in Navy blue that looks USGI but is probably one of those "contract overruns" and it was expensive. Today, those made by Alpha are civilian copies all the way. Not sure what the prices are but I would hope they've dropped quite a bit now that they're all over the place and probably not as well made as the USGI version.

#3 Bob Hudson

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Posted 20 November 2006 - 01:31 PM

Alpha's MA-1 copies list for about $80 these days and are very well made. I see several MA-1 repros every week and most I won't touch at any price, but the Alphas stand out for sure: they continue to make them to mil specs. Non-Nomex repro versions of the CWU jackets go for around $100-150 new, while Nomex versions list for over $400 (this is another example of how a new repro can cost a lot more than than a used version of the real thing).

#4 Greg Robinson

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Posted 20 November 2006 - 02:31 PM

20 years ago those MA-1's were about $80 in new condition so I see the prices haven't dropped. One of the nicest milspec surplus jackets I've ever bought was a Navy G1 that was made to the post Vietnam pattern. I bought it brand new 30 years ago for $150 and it's been a great jacket and it's 100% milspec and beautifully made. And at a huge size 46 it continues to fit me as I got older and not as lean as I used to be.

#5 Lee Ragan

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 02:25 PM

I was an Air Force supply type from 1966 to 1970 and spent most of that time in Individual Equipment, which meant issuing specalized clothing, like flight jackets. We had L-2B summer weight jackets and MA-1 winter jackets. Nearly all were sage green with the orange lining. These had replaced the older versions which were blue inside and out. I had an old B-15 "Modified", which meant it had the fur collar removed and the knit neck band installed. I only wore that with civies though and sold it to a jacket collector about 10 years ago. Wish I hadn't done that! I don't know if any of the blue jackets carried the "MA-1" designation though. My B-15 was exactly like an MA-1 except the color difference. I believe the older L-2 summer jacket was an "A". I may be wrong on that though. You can see lots of these jackets being worn by aircrew in old photos taken in the Korean War.
From 1977 to 1995, I was in the Civil Air Patrol, and they had a blue flight jacket similar to a blue MA-1 with an orange lining, but those are the same as the every-day civilian jackets you can still buy from several places. It wasn't as heavy duty as the old MA-1 or nylon B-15, but looked somewhat like them.

#6 Dave

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 03:06 PM

At a previous command, I wore a CWU-45P all the time. It was an eBay purchase, but a real (though used) one so I wore for duty. It was a great jacket, I could just never find one with the right arm length for me! I've got gorilla arms. I eventually re-eBayed the jacket, got all that I paid for it back again, despite wearing it for two years. I kind of wish now that I had kept it though.

#7 kklinejr

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Posted 06 January 2007 - 05:15 AM

When I was a kid I grew up right next door to a SAC base (I still remember my mom holding onto glasses from the shelves when the B-52s used the alternate runway route and roared overhead :) ). The MA-1s, N-2B heavy parkas, etc. were basically everywhere in the local thrift shops as personnel simply discarded them upon getting new coats. As a kid, I had a field day. I still have many of them to this day...a few are below.

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#8 kklinejr

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Posted 06 January 2007 - 05:16 AM

A few more:

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#9 kklinejr

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Posted 06 January 2007 - 05:17 AM

Last ones:

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#10 Philip

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Posted 26 August 2009 - 11:44 AM

What does CWU stand for?
thanks

#11 willysmb44

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Posted 26 August 2009 - 10:05 PM

Back in the late 80s, I wore an issue MA-1 I bought from a former B-52 jock with no patches and then put on a bunch of Dutch AF F-16 driver patches on it (I had just come back from a month in the Netherlands and was quite impressed with the RNLAF low flying I saw). Somewhere along the line it vanished. Man, how I wish I had that jacket (and patches) back!
It’s more than a little off-topic, but I thought you all would get a kick out of this, an MA-1 made by someone other than Alpha. Not a bad copy, these were bought in bulk by Fox and given to cast and crew members of the short-lived sci-fi show, “Space Above and Beyond” which ran only for the 95-96 TV season.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v214/willysmb44/Sci-Fi/Crewjacket.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v214/willysmb44/Sci-Fi/jfront.jpg

#12 vaq139

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Posted 21 February 2011 - 07:52 AM

Hello this is my first post I am a small time patch collector and every so often I will recreate a flight jacket like the one I attached [hopefully].
I mainly collect patches that are attached to the Niagara Falls Air National Guard and Air Reserve Base US Air Force Base
107th FIS, 107 ARW 107 Fighter Group,136th FIS,914th Airlift,328th Airlift
NYANG,Air Force Reserve
I am a new-be collector and honor all who have served. I look forward to learning from everyone Thanks Howard

#13 vaq139

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Posted 23 February 2011 - 09:41 AM

Hello again I am trying to attach a pic
I got it may be ? please advise is there an easy why? Thanks Howard Please see my first post just a littl back in this disccusion





Hello this is my first post I am a small time patch collector and every so often I will recreate a flight jacket like the one I attached [hopefully].
I mainly collect patches that are attached to the Niagara Falls Air National Guard and Air Reserve Base US Air Force Base
107th FIS, 107 ARW 107 Fighter Group,136th FIS,914th Airlift,328th Airlift
NYANG,Air Force Reserve
I am a new-be collector and honor all who have served. I look forward to learning from everyone Thanks Howard

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#14 vaq139

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Posted 21 March 2011 - 06:08 AM

Hello again I am trying to attach a pic
I got it may be ? please advise is there an easy why? Thanks Howard Please see my first post just a littl back in this disccusion

I am a civilian patch collector and I collect Navy Patches and patches that center around the Fleet, Air wings and squadrons on the aircraft carriers that my son in law is assigned He is presently aboard the CVN-75 Harry S Truman [prior-CVN-70 and CVN-65] My other passion is Flight Jackets I collect all Fabric Jackets centering around CWU-45/P 36/P sage and desert colors no Leather jackets yet Occasionally I recreate a jacket that depicts a certain period and detail to it to match a ship, air wing and squadron. For the Navy I have the CWU”s and a WEP and for USAF I have almost all types they have used
Here is where I need help
I was shopping the other day in a Ma-1 jacket that I have replicated to US Air Force 1970’s Era and I got called out by a returned Army OIF Veteran I was so embarrassed I tried to say it was an Honor and I told him thank you we shook hands and went on, I can’t get over what happened. I faithfully do not want send that message again because I do Honor them and Appreciate all who serve our Country I thought I was projecting an image only to be made out as a wanabe
There was No way to explain myself to him when he asked me if I was in the Air Force
I was proud how authentic the jacket turned out and received compliments but that Soldier Put me in my place
I apologize to every soldier who I walked by wearing the jacket who I may have offended. The Jacket stays out of public from now on
As a Civilian patch collector My Question know is how what do I do with my flight jackets ?
My US Navy Jackets all have VELCRO attachments
reading some the forum topics are there acceptable type of patches that could be placed without looking like a wanabe and disrespecting the military the following is what is what I got from reading the posts please correct me and guidance please
No US Navy, US Air Force, US Army, US Marine Corp, US Coast Guard insignia-No command Wings Groups, no squadrons -No weapon schools, Training schools -No Crew chiefs Support Crews, No ranks anywhere and No badges is a flag ok
I suggest Specific plane & aircraft patches such as F-14, f-16 and f-18’s ?? and a name tag with no wings
Or Event s attended? Air show’s
When and what would be appropriate for a civilian to wear on a flight jacket
thanks howard

#15 VP_Association

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Posted 29 June 2011 - 08:18 AM

I wouldn't worry too much about that incident. Wear your flight jacket whenever and wherever you want to. If somebody, veteran or otherwise, ever gives you a hard time about it tell him or her to mind their own business.

In a somewhat related story, back when I was with VP-8 based at NAS Brunswick, ME during the early 1980s I wore my Nomex summer weight flight jacket off base to a big shopping mall located in Portland. In the Navy at least you are not allowed to wear any kind of flight gear off base. In fact, on some bases you aren't even allowed to wear flight gear off the flight line or outside of the hangar. The mall that I went to was about 30 miles away from the base so I figured that I was safe there. Anyway, as I was walking around the mall this older Phillipino guy approached me and started screaming at me. I was 19 at the time and this "older" Phillipino guy was perhaps 40 or so. From my perspective he was an old man! He had a really thick Phillipino accent. I thought he said something like "I'm a very dirty chief and I'm going to take a sh*t". I said, "Excuse me?" He repeated himself. I said, "Get away from me before I call a cop!" He followed me through the mall, really agitated, repeating the same thing over and over again. I went over to the nearest mall cop and told him that I was being harrassed by this crazy guy. It turned out that the Phillipino wasn't saying "I'm a very dirty chief and I'm going to take a sh*t.", he was saying "I'm a VP-23 chief and I'm going to give you a chit". The guy was a chief mess management specialist assigned to VP-23, which was another P-3 squadron based at NAS Brunswick, and he was pissed off that I was wearing a flight jacket in the mall. He was telling me that he was going to give me a "chit" or write me up for unauthorized wearing of flight gear off the base! The mall cop basically ran him off. I left the mall immediately and spent the next few weeks hiding from all the Philipino CPOs that I encountered on the base!

#16 jorgeaguilera

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Posted 11 July 2011 - 09:49 AM

What does CWU stand for?
thanks

Means Cold Weather Uniform

#17 jorgeaguilera

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Posted 12 July 2011 - 09:20 AM

Last ones:

Gee very nice collection... I was looking for some model of Ma-1 with b-52 patches like yours

#18 Stony

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 09:16 PM

Here's what I found on the history of the CWU-45/P and the CWU-36/P from Alpha Industries' website.

CWU45/P History
By the 70's, commercial advances in fire retardant materials had developed a new range of fabrics for flight jackets and suites.
These changes ushered in a new series of revisions to the entire flight equipment ensembles worn by aviators. This lead to the development of the universally popular CWU-45/P flight jacket (and its similar cousin, the lighter weight CWU-36/P), which traces it's origin back to the 1973 specification for an improved cold weather outfit that included a detachable hood and trousers in addition to the jacket itself. This specification was a Military Standard (MIL-STD) that called for the use of the latest Aromatic Polyamide fabrics that were treated with a fire retardant substance. The previous series of jackets, notable the MA-1, used nylon as a fabric, which was discovered to have a potential to melt onto the wearer's ski when subjected to flames encountered during an aircraft fire. The new jacket was procured under MIL-J-83388A and termed the CWU-17/P. Without a close inspection, it is virtually indistinguishable from the CWU-36/P, a slightly improved version of the CWU-17/P.
The initial contract was in 1973, and produced the most popular contemporary flight jacket since the leather flight jackets from World War II. The more stylish cut was enhanced by the practical deep side pockets with Velcro secured flaps, which inhibit the loss of any contents that potentially could be sucked up by a jet engine and cause Foreign-Object-Damage (FOD). The tops of the pockets were cut at a rakish 40 degrees, which further inhibited loss of contents, but was also conducive to allowing aviators to put their hands in their pockets in cold weather.

In 1977, the jacket was renamed the CWU-45/P under the same MIL-J-83388A, and the detachable signal pocket that was a feature of the CWU-17/P was reduced in size. In 1980, the lip of the "windshield" (or collar) was reduced slightly and the specification updated to MIL-J-83388B. Concerns over the interference of the rear "action" pleats during a potential ejection, led to the reduction in their size, and the subsequent update to specification MIL-J-83388C. The latest modification was a simplification to the stitching of the windshield (visible underneath) in the 1984 that produced MIL-J-83388D. To all but the experienced eye, the jacket appears virtually the same since its introduction, and remains the U.S. Military's most popular flight jacket.



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