In 1950 the Boeing Airplane Company faced a problem. It was well placed with the military market, but not so much with commercial. They lagged behind Douglas who had great success with their DC series in the domestic market, and De Havilland who had launched the Comet in 1949. But they had a hit with the B-47 Stratojet and its swept wings with engines in pods beneath. They chose to invest $2m of their own money on a prototype, taking a KC-97, altering the fuselage width, adding swept wings and pod engines (if you look in the back of one of my images, you'll see the KC-97s being built). The result was the 367-80, known as the Dash 80, the only aircraft of its type built and the prototype for all modern commercial aircraft. It is ranked by the Smithsonian (where the the aircraft is currently on display) as one of the 12 most important aircraft of all time. It was first flown in 1954, but is most famously known for its 1955 official launch show in Seattle, when legendary test pilot Tex Johnston barrel rolled the plane (last image is the aircraft upside down) to an assembled audience of airline execs. When asked the next day by the CEO what he was playing at, Tex simply replied ‘selling airplanes’.
This jacket was worn by the Boeing Test pilots in the 1950s, and one can be seen being worn by Tex Johnston himself in the first of the period images. It's fundamentally different from the Air Force L-2 series jacket, with a black leather oxygen tab, sharply angled button waist flap and pockets, completely different pencil pockets, very pale silver green colour (far paler than an L-2b as shown in comparison photo), non-contrast colour knits and brass/green buttons. All of these unique features can be seen on the jacket itself, and match exactly to the period images which came from a 1957 Life Magazine article, and the private collection of Lew Wallick's daughter - for those that don't know, Wallick was a Chief Test Pilot at Boeing, he's sitting on the right of the colour image of two pilots on the cockpit. Further more, as I've circled in one image in yellow, the eagle eyed amongst you will see the BOE of Boeing on the back of Lew's jacket whilst on the Transcontinental press trip in 1957, matching the BOE on the jacket I have. It's worth noting that there does appear to be a further early 60s model seen in some of the images that removed the black oxygen tab, but retained these other unique features.
I've tried to confirm the manufacturer of the jacket, but this has not been possible. It shares features such as a similar type of lining with the 1954 L-2B Blue Anchor A model, but as discussed above is a fundamentally different design. I will continue to research this, but without going through Boeing purchasing records from the 1950s or finding another one of these with the label, this is likely to be an unsurmountable challenge.
This jacket is the only one of its type I've ever seen, and as far as I know, still in existence. It truly is a rare bird, and a small piece of one of the most important steps in American aviation history.
The jacket is in good, solid condition, but does have a couple of issues. The zip has been period replaced with a Talon zip, and very unfortunately it's missing the tag. Notably the size of the tag is very different from those of a standard military tag of the early 50s, so I strongly suspect these were all handmade and not part of a government contract. There are a couple of small marks on the nylon as pictured, and whilst the waist knits are great, the cuffs have some issues. The size (44 chest, 24 sleeves) has been hand written on the inside.
- Marked 44 chest, 24 sleeve
- Fits a modern medium/large
- Pit to pit 24"
- Shoulder to shoulder 19"
- Shoulder to cuff 25"
- Collar to hem 24"