View Full Version : Why do military wear gloves?

piper pervert
28th Feb 2005, 21:43
Hi all,
A friend asked me the other day why military pilots wear gloves and commercial pilots don't.I laughed and said how daft he sounded then i kinda twigged that i didn't know either!
Is there a practical reason or is it purely for show?


Compass Call
28th Feb 2005, 21:58
Probably for the same reason they wear fireproof flying suits.


28th Feb 2005, 21:59
One reason, it is required protection in the event of fire.

28th Feb 2005, 23:09
Perhaps their hands sweat more?

I'm not military and I wear gloves. In the winter to keep my hands warm and in the summer because they sweat. And you all really wanted to know that! My instructor, ex-army, didn't.



1st Mar 2005, 05:16
It's required by the military.. as in you don't have a choice. It is for fire protection though.

1st Mar 2005, 05:31

Most purposes are protective and a few decoratives thrown in for good measure.


1. Fire - obvious.
2. Cold - in winter and high lattitudes.
3. Cold - ejection/bail out at the higher altitudes.
4. Injury protection when fumbling around some poorly finished cockpits/flight decks having protruding screws and sharp edges.
5. Finger retention for those who persist in wearing rings against military orders to the contrary. How many have lost fingers resulting from a ring which gets caught up on some protrusion when exiting from a fighter type aircraft.

Decoratives and dual purpose.

1. Some Captains' affectation
2. As Uniform - VIP aircrew

1st Mar 2005, 08:53

I'm with you on that one! I started wearing gloves 'cos I got all nervous etc when I was learning to fly and felt I was wiping my hands on my trousers too much. Gloves eliminated all that and stopped me worrying about it. I don't get so nervous any more but I still like wearing the golves. They're also great in an open or unheated cockpit, power or glider. I don't have a problem writing or operating any knobs or dials.

I was duty pilot on Sunday and gloves were great for fuelling up and shoving the a/c about etc as well as for flying. The same people who took the rise out of me for wearing gloves were complaining about the bitter cold and how hard it was to operate with frozen fingers. Tough! I thought.

One tip someone gave me, though. If you wear the nice white thin leather ones, do an oil change in them before you let anyone see you wearing them!

I've only seen 2 big jet pilots wearing gloves, though, a DC10 f/0 and a 146 Captain, so I guess it's pretty rare. Perhaps they never get nervous.


Genghis the Engineer
1st Mar 2005, 08:58
Plus in a multi-crew aircraft at night, a white glove ensures that the FE can see what the pilots are doing with their hands before they break anything; similarly in fast jets a white-gloved hand makes formation hand signals much clearer.


1st Mar 2005, 09:08
You mean BA Captains no longer wear white gloves?

1st Mar 2005, 09:18

Do you mean the ones with 'L' & 'R' on the backs?

I thought they stopped 'cos Nigel's mum didn't like them.


ps, talking of gloves...
One of the most common items of FOD on the airfield are gloves. We guess they come from the pushback crews, but why are they always RIGHT gloves, never left? When they drop them, don't they notice they're only wearing one? A life mystery...

1st Mar 2005, 09:50
Also worth bearing in mind that the aircon on many mil aircraft is neglible or non-existant. Under the bubble of a Bulldog or a Gazelle even in the miserly summer sun of the UK could get very hot.

stator vane
1st Mar 2005, 10:44
i saw a few first officers in asiana's 737s wear them.
i never asked why though.

i've only seen a few others in commercial jets

i find it hard enough to keep track of earplugs and sunglasses.

i wear gloves in the winter but not to fly with. and have lost a few along the way.

Maude Charlee
1st Mar 2005, 11:45
Not convinced of the fire , and especially not the thermal properties, of kid leather gloves. No cold protection at all. Nomex, not used them, but I suspect much better.

As for commercial guys wearing them, a certain easyjet skipper is the subject of much ribbing for his white leather gloves. Sweaty hands apparently.


Ropey Pilot
1st Mar 2005, 14:54
Thermal qualities of kid leather gloves are quite poor (as are that of nomex suit - it won't light or melt if subjected to a flame but if temp is 1000 degrees outside the cloth it will also be 1000 degrees inside it - that is why one must also wear a thermal layer of a natural material (usually cotton long-johns and roll neck) for fire protection.

Same is true of the gloves, they should be worn with silk liners.

(When hovering a gazelle in Kenya cockpit temp can get pretty high - well over 40 degrees - not many wear the thermal layer there!)

1st Mar 2005, 15:10
The U.S military (and some others as well) use Nomex flight suits and gloves, and in some cases, flight jackets as well.

Contrary to popular belief, Nomex is NOT fire-proof. It is fire-retartant, and will burn eventually, given time.

Military flight crew are required to wear them in case of fire, especially cockpit / electrical fire. Imagine you're not wearing gloves and a fire breaks out near your flight controls (I'm exaggerating)... it would be quite difficult to fly the aircraft then...

I am a former military pilot, and now undergoing commerical training, and I still wear my gloves to fly. Also helps for your pre-flight checks... dun wanna get cut or anything when checking the plane out... Frankly, I think it is a good idea to wear them to fly.

1st Mar 2005, 15:56
Leather gloves can be bad news in a fire. Some types of leather will shrink when exposed to heat. If that happens, you don't want your hands inside them.

This is one of many things considered when selecting gloves for air crew.

1st Mar 2005, 16:41
As you need you digits (well most of them) to do almost everything in a military cockpit, protection of them is given high importance. Leather gloves are a cost effective means of providing durable garments.

In addition to protection from the heat from short-duration "flash-fires" various other gloves or glove combinations exist. There are immersion gloves which have a rubber wrist seal and are treated with a water-repelent substance to help in the sea survival case. Under these you would normally wear a thin pair of silk "immersion glove inners" to help improve the thermal qualities and/or absorb sweat.

In addition there are gloves which help protect agaist some of the "nastier" weapons of modern conflicts (chem/bio).

As with all things in life it is a matter for compromise, protection versus utility, there is no one pair of gloves that can cater for all eventualities and still allow you to podge buttons and tinker with switches.


1st Mar 2005, 19:28
Gloves for fire protection

White for conspicuity or high visibility for the unwashed amongst you. Due to the vast number of highly demanding and very cool formation trips we fly, which require hand signals between pilots, an easily seen colour was required.

Just thought I would add this to stop the amount of spurious **** already on this thread;)

Plus they also have the benefit of making you fly better, if you put a piece of string connecting the two it reminds you to pull back on the throttle when you push the stick forward:} win, win situation really,


2nd Mar 2005, 20:56
In my early mil flying career I wore Nomex gloves as part of my fashionable Nomex flight suit ensemble because it was required. However, one day I ended up flying with an old aircraft commander who had been in an runway overrun accident some years before. Everyone had gotten out of the aircraft, but not until after a flash fire had erupted. This gentleman had been wearing his gloves, but because the day was hot and humid, had rolled his flight suit sleeves up a couple of turns during preflight. He had perfect burn scars all the way round his arms in that area above the point where the glove ended and below where his rolled-up sleeve began. Burns to that bit of exposed skin on each arm was the only damage he had suffered.

From that day forward I wore them because I thought it was a good idea, not because they were required. True, when itís 1000 degrees outside of the flight suit it is pretty much a safe bet that itís 1000 degrees inside the flight suit. In such cases of prolonged exposure to heat Nomex isnít going to save you. However, there ARE occasions where Nomex CAN help, and like everything else related to aviation safety, you hedge your bets when you can. To this end, when I fly as a passenger even today I opt for new jeans and a cotton shirt because I believe that in a fire they just might give me a second or two that I wouldn't otherwise have. I'll take those seconds anywhere I can get them. In a case like this where there's little downside to dressing in this manner, the cost/benefit analysis seems to favor natural fibers over stuff that'll melt to your skin at the first sign of danger...

The point about rings is also well-taken. I had a healthy respect for the ring rule and never wore any around the aircraft. However, I am convinced that having my gloves on and tucked into the sleeves of my flight suit saved me being strung up by my watch band on more than one occasion.


3rd Mar 2005, 10:54
I m with Whirlygig and TheoddOne too...

I ve always got sweaty palms - not sure if its fear thou or just cos it seems to get so hot in helicopters.


3rd Mar 2005, 23:59
Sweaty palms are better than hairy palms I suppose

4th Mar 2005, 00:44
A Captain at a major US airline (now bankrupt) always would wear white dress gloves while flying. One day he asked the FE to make a power change, the FE donned a huge asbestos glove carried on board for electrcal fires, he moved the the thrust levers and the Capatain said "that's not funny."

4th Mar 2005, 11:22
MAny moons ago was flying lynx in Northern Germany, we all had Gucci posing white kid gloves taken off us and issued with slightly less Gucci green kid gloves as it was more Tactical in the forests! ....at the same time we had amazing reflective bands on our helmets to make us more observable - go figure!!

They then re issued white gloves to make hand signals to ground crews more easily seen. In theory they were supposed to be changed whenever they were contaminated with oil or similar, yeah right, ever seen a Lynx NOT covered in oil!!

Always understood that nomex was flashproof rather than any other sort of proof and fully expected to end up black and crispy in the event.

Watched a Lynx crew burn to death in Hildesheim not wearing Nomex, even though we got them out the damage was already done, nomex wouldn't have helped. Same thing happpened to a scout crew in Detmold.

4th Mar 2005, 15:13
Caution: Thread hijack in progress. ;)

The rule against wearing rings was a new one to me. What's the reasoning behind it?

"5. Finger retention for those who persist in wearing rings against military orders to the contrary. How many have lost fingers resulting from a ring which gets caught up on some protrusion when exiting from a fighter type aircraft."

Exiting as in punching out? Or hooking a ring on... well... whatever it is thought rings may hook on and falling off the ladder? Never heard of it happening, but by the way you describe it, it sounds like a not quite uncommon occurance. :uhoh:

In my parts, gloves stay on. That's probably why it's news to me.


Jump Complete
4th Mar 2005, 17:29
THEODDONE asks why they only find right gloves dropped by ground crew. I would imagine its because, most people being right handed, when they have to do anything fiddly they take off their right glove only.

El Grifo
4th Mar 2005, 18:28
Good thinking Jump.

Maybe when they have "Something Fiddly to do" with their right hand, they prefer the flesh to flesh sensation.

Ok - OK I'm outa here !!!!!

:} :cool: :}

4th Mar 2005, 19:15
I well remember the RAF white glove/green glove/white glove fiasco. Every crewmember in the RAF got new green gloves, only to be given brand new white ones some monthe later. In the finest tradition of the RAF, our Sqdn opted to wear one of each until some months later an order was issued to tell us to desist. I still have the green pair somewhere. As for improving your flying abilities, never in a few thousand flying hours did it make one iota of difference. With or without, rather than white over green!

5th Mar 2005, 05:35
The rule against wearing rings was a new one to me. What's the reasoning behind it?
There was no rule as such, but it wasn't recommended. There have been mainy occasions of peolple jumping down off of vehicles only to catch their ring on something and strip the flesh off of their ring finger.:yuk: I managed to wear two rings through my 24 years and managed to get away with it. Perhaps I was lucky.

Approaching Minimums
5th Mar 2005, 10:58
As far as I know all commercial pilots in Japan wear white silk gloves when flying... Does anybody know a reason for this? It seems that this apply to all Japanese pilots no matter which airline they are flying... Just check some cockpit photos from airliners.net if you don't believe :cool:

Best Regards,
Approaching Minimums

5th Mar 2005, 11:18
There have been mainy occasions of peolple jumping down off of vehicles only to catch their ring on something and strip the flesh off

..sounds quite painful to me....:E

5th Mar 2005, 20:46
RAF colleague of mine used to have large L & R on the back of his gloves following an awkward moment when told to vacate second right and took the second left.

Last heard flying with BA but presumably relies on his co.

7th Mar 2005, 00:18
Hi all
Ask your engineers how many of them are missing digits or bits of hands from having snagged a ringwearing finger on a bit of machinery. There's always at least one. That's also why we don't wear ties (if you must, wear a clip-on), dangling jewellery and do our best to keep our clothing and headgear restrained. Apart from that, we wear cotton gloves because of the hazardous nature of turbine oil, hydraulic fluid and Avtur. Dermatitis is one thing they don't mention in flight school.

7th Mar 2005, 01:28
Marigolds are great. Anything in latex actually.


A quantas crew on a B742 heard about the skippers habit of wearing white gloves some time before the trip....

Apparently the skipper donned his white gloves as usual and anounced "set take-off power". At which point the flt engineers hairy, 3 fingered, long nailed mit advanced the levers...

Nothing was said, apart from "power set".

V1 was followed by "positive climb" from the F/O. Followed by "gear up" from the white gloved captain.

At which point the F/Os big red boxing glove moved the gear lever to the up position....

Apparently this captain never wore gloves to work again!


7th Mar 2005, 05:33
I wear ex-RAF green leather gloves for a few reasons:
1) Everything in the cockpit is sharp.
2) There is no heater. Everything in the cockpit is cold (I have the silk inners)
3) My hands sweat like a Grand National winner
4) Everything under the engine cowling is oily
5) The prop is always sharp and cold when I swing it (see items 1 & 2 above).
6) They match the green leather interior!

7th Mar 2005, 07:13
Hmmm, gloves.
Thought I would never wear 'em, until...

I was assigned to test fly (and receive a PC in) the first Lockheed TriStar that had come out of the hangar in JED, with a fresh 'D' check.
41C, usual high humidity for JED, and I found to my surprise that the maintenance folks had painted the nose wheel tiller a nice shiny black...so shiny it burned (ouch) in the hot sun, and then...it was slippery as hell...couldn't hold on to the darn thing.
Had an old golf glove in the kit...solved the problem nicely.

Oh yes, about the 'D' check.
Returned with 'nil defects'.

Will wonders never cease.:\

10th Mar 2005, 14:19
I've heard stories that they make good sick bags too!

10th Mar 2005, 15:20
I would not say 'good' Aerospace, having had a pax in an aeros sortie in a Jet Provost use it for just that! It was like a huge, leaking cow's udder, swinging gently, on the gentle way back home.

Anyone still reading.....?:D

Dixons Cider
11th Mar 2005, 08:28
With reference to the Jap pilots and their white silk gloves:
its not only on the flightdeck that they wear them, they keep them on out in the staff car park also. You see drivers all over the roads wearing them. Dunno why

11th Mar 2005, 11:39
Back in 1952 when I was in the RAAF, we were shown some fairly gross photos of burnt off toes where during the war, some unfortunates had been shot down and because they were wearing socks that had holes in the toe area, the socks had saved their feet all except for their toes which were exposed.

After that I tried to convince my then wife that she had to do one other essential marital duty and that was patch up my well-worn holey socks. She was not convinced.

11th Mar 2005, 12:08

Wrong !

You should have treated your wife with kid gloves and left the socks to Safety Equipment.

It must have been about 1952 when the RAAF started to issue flying boots. They would have covered up your holy socks.

11th Mar 2005, 13:01
us flying rozzers are issued with black flying gloves.

not many of the boys here use em apart from doing the fuel checks. personally i wear mine all the time along with my nomex, thermals, and visor down - even in the scorching british summers.

i do however refuse to wear the roll necks that are issued to us. something is just not right about a man wearing a roll neck. the risk of singeing the top of my chest rug is one im prepared to accept by wearing the retardant t-shirt instead.

i wouldnt consider myself a safety geek but these things do happen. the one time i didnt have my visor down we collected a lapwing putting a 12" hole in the nose right in front of me, covering me with feathers. you never know when these things are gonna happen and as one reader mentioned earlier you have to minimise the risks.

i also have a gorgeous pair of oily old white ones but i am not brave enough to wear them at work. i would just get way too much stick!



11th Mar 2005, 13:29
The key to the answer is in the question - "why do the military wear gloves?

When I was in the military I did what I was told to do - without asking questions. I was issued with gloves, and told to wear them, so I wore them...

11th Mar 2005, 14:16
Use of Roll Necks;

These are worn by the military to prevent 'splatter' injuries to the neck.

I saw a report where a canopy on a FJ shattered on the ground. Pilot still had his mask on, Nav didnt, he sustained 'splatter' injuries to his face below the visor. So a roll neck is worn to cover up the flesh exposed between your flight suit and your mask/visor/helmet combo.

14th Mar 2005, 10:17
In many parts of Asia, white gloves are worn by pilots, cab and bus drivers, machine operators etc. From what I have heard, it's considered polite to wear gloves as someone else will be touching the controls later.