The OreANG’s Orange Flight Suit Era

  • Published
  • By Lt Col Terrence G. Popravak, Jr. (USAF Retired)
  • 142nd Wing/Historian's Office

In this undated 1970s picture, aircrew of the 123rd Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, 142nd Fighter Group, Oregon Air National Guard (OreANG) at Portland ANG Base, Oregon, are seen here in concentration in the squadron’s old main briefing room.  They are perhaps taking one of several annual or semi-annual written tests to ensure their familiarity and knowledge in some key aspect of operation of the McDonnell F-101B Voodoo fighter-interceptor which the squadron operated in the 1970s.

Although orange flight suits are an uncommon sight today, there was a time when they were frequently seen, depending on the unit of assignment and location.  For a homeland air defense mission under the Aerospace Defense Command (ADC), orange was a helpful color for locating and rescuing a downed aircrew in the waters off the coasts or on land.  The orange flight suit was also used in rescue units as well as fighter-interceptor and tactical fighter units stationed overseas, where it was similarly helpful during peacetime operations.  

These orange flight suits (official color Indian Orange, textile color association cable 70072) came in a K-2B summer-weight type made of cotton twill (official designation:  COVERALL, FLYING, MAN’S, VERY LIGHT K-2B, MIL-C-6265E (USAF), as well as a CWU-1/P winter type made of a mix of 30 to 35% wool and 65 to 70% synthetic (nylon or rayon) (official designation:  COVERALL, FLYING, MEN’S, TYPE CWU-1/P, MIL-C-25786A (USAF)). 

Aircrew wore a sage green L-2B (Light) or MA-1 (Intermediate)-type nylon (nylon shell and lining with polyester fiber fill) flight jacket over the orange flight suit, as seen in the picture.  The jacket had an orange interior which could be turned inside-out to help in search and rescue. as can be seen in the flight jacket on the floor at the lower left of the picture, and as worn by pilot Major Brad Newell, seated just to the left of the 35mm slide projector.

For the 142nd Fighter Group, an ADC-gained unit under operational plans, orange flights suits were commonly used from the early 1960s well into the 1980s, in the F-89J Scorpion (1960-1966), F-102 Delta Dagger (1966-1971), F-101B Voodoo (1971-1981 and F-4C Phantom II (1981-1989) periods of service.  The organization transitioned away from them during the F-4 decade in favor of the sage green flight suits still in use today.  (Image from the 142nd Wing History Archive)