Africa Aerospace & Defence 2016

Best wear for pilots [AAD16D1]

14 September 2016

A pilot’s life often depends on the quality of their equipment, including the flight suit. South Africa’s Stepahead (Canvas and Tent Stand OS4, outside Hangar 3), well-known for its military headwear, has just launched a fire-retardant flight suit.

Working with Gelvenor Textiles, Stepahead now produces the flame-retardant (FR) flight suits in its factory in Pretoria. Made from Protal, an advanced inherent FR material, the suits can be manufactured to a customer’s colour preference, even in hi-vis yellow.

Protal is a patent-protected technical fibre blend that is strictly controlled. Gelvenor secured the rights from Waxman Fibres to produce the fabric, which is lightweight yet strong, breathable and comfortable to handle and wear. Its FR properties remain fast and will not deteriorate, even after repeated laundering or dry-cleaning.

Both Stepahead and Gelvenor are members of the South African Technical Textile Cluster, which aims to become recognised as a global supplier of standard-setting quality.

“At Stepahead we’ve been manufacturing officer caps, woollen berets and military accoutrements for the African and Middle East markets since 2004 using the very best wool, Melton cloth and gold wire,” said chief executive Maureen Simoes. “Testimony to our quality is the 100% pass rate Stepahead has received for the past 10 years in the ‘capability report’ of the South African Bureau of Standards.”

Gelvenor was the first African manufacturer of aeronautical fabrics, and pioneered a water-based coating for parachutes.

Besides producing South Africa’s first FR fabric, Gelvenor is Africa’s largest weaver of aramid fabrics for protective ballistic protection.



(250 words)
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