Late 1950′s MA-1

The design of the MA-1 has continued to be popular in both civilian and military circles due to key practical considerations in it’s design.

The MA-1 as originally designed, was made from high quality nylon outer shell and a nylon lining. In between these nylon layers was a double faced wool material for warmth. After a few years, the wool interlining was replaced by the newly developed polyester fiber fill interlining. The polyester replaced the wool because it made the jacket much lighter and provided superior warmth. The MA-1 introduced two major design changes from its predecessor, the B-15:

  • The MA-1 discarded the mouton fur collar and substituted a knit collar. This was done because the fur collar interfered with the parachute harness worn by the aviators.
  • In later models (J-8279D, about 1960), the MA-1 jacket was made reversible and added a bright Indian Orange lining. If the airplane crash landed and the pilot escaped, he could reverse the jacket to the orange side for a highly visible signal to rescue personnels

Changes to the MA-1 over the years

  • Early models contained a front tab where the pilot could clip his oxygen mask when not in use. After several years, advances in airplane design and pilot helmet oxygen systems made the clip-on arrangement unnecessary, and the front tab was removed.
  • Early models also had sewn loops to hold the wires running from the radio to the pilot’s helmet. When radio improvements made this unnecessary, the sewn loops were removed.
  • The early MA-1 flight jackets were used by the Air Force and had the United States Air Force decal on each sleeve. This was dropped in later MA-1 models when the jacket began to be used by other branches of the military.
  • Each MA-1 jacket requires 57 separate sewing operations. These operations are highly engineered and each has a distinct quality purpose. The utility pocket, originally called the cigarette pocket, involves 8 sewing operations.

Modern Day Alpha MA-1s

The Alpha MA-1, which is sold to the commercial market, has several deviations from the government specifications. These changes have no effect on the appearance, and make the jackets more useful for consumers on an everyday basis. The deviations include:

  • Water repellent treated fabric – this makes the garment more resistant to water and wind
  • Knit collar, cuffs and waist band are an acrylic blend rather than 100% wool. It has been found that wool does not wear as well as acrylic and is subject to insect damage.
  • The interlining is cut staple, non-quilted polyester batting rather than a quilted, continuous staple polyester batting; and has no performance impact on the finished garment
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