“Why are you wearing that thing?”
“That thing” is my leather A-2 flight jacket, the one with all the patches. I wear it all the time, including at Sun ‘n Fun in Florida in April.
I have a weakness for flight jackets. When I decided I was going to learn to fly, one of the first things I bought was a distressed leather A-2 from the Smithsonian Catalog. It was a college graduation present, from me to me. I was a radio/TV/magazine reporter at the time and I became known as “the girl reporter who wears the bomber jacket.”
I continued wearing that jacket until my 250th hour of flight training when Leonard, a friend who is afraid to fly but thinks I am cool for doing it, decided that I needed a new jacket. The distressed one had some rips, tears, worn-out cuffs and ink stains on the interior map pocket from shoving my notebook in there. He told me that since it was my intention to pursue my commercial certificate I needed something that made me look more professional. He talked me into an A-2 from the San Diego Leather Co. He had a name badge with civilian commercial pilot wings made for it.
That jacket, the one I wear all the time, is known as “the honor jacket” because the patches on it are in honor of people and organizations I admire.
The first patch I acquired was Fifinella from the Women Airforce Service Pilots. I was working at an aviation museum at the time and met some of these amazing women. The museum sold the patches in the gift store. I asked WASP Shutsy Reynolds, 44-W-5, for permission to wear Fifinella on my jacket. She told me that I didn’t need her permission, but was pleased that I asked all the same.
The next patch came from The Lost Squadron, the organization that recovered the P-38 now known as “Glacier Girl” from Greenland in the early 1990s. I invited Bob Cardin, who spearheaded the restoration, to do a presentation at the museum. He gave me the patch noting that it would look great on my jacket. I still hadn’t decided where to put the patch when I tore my jacket while rescuing a kitten out of a tree. I used the patch to cover the tear. He was right, it looks great.
The next patch was a gift from Linda Morgan, the widow of the late Colonel Bob Morgan of “Memphis Belle” fame. I was one of the last reporters to interview him before his death. During the interview he talked extensively about his desire to have the “Memphis Belle” moved from its outdoor location in Memphis to the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. After his passing I wrote an editorial about his wish. When the Air Force agreed to take the airplane, Mrs. Morgan insisted I have one of the patches that honored her late husband’s aircraft.
Another prized possession is a G-1 jacket that used to belong to the father of a man I worked with. The co-worker followed me around for a week checking out the width of my shoulders because he wanted to be sure that the jacket would fit before he gave it to me. It needed new cuffs, but other than that it was in good condition. It has the military spec single-entry front pockets. It fits like it was made for me.
The next flight jacket I acquired was a B-6 with a fleece lining. It is very warm and so soft that people seem to want to pet me when I wear it. It is known as the “Saavik jacket” because Saavik, my 25-lb. Siamese cat, acts out when I go on trips UNLESS I leave it on the bed for him to sleep on.
I collect uniforms in addition to jackets. I prowl flea markets, vintage clothing stores and swap meets looking for items. The hunt is part of the fun. This is how I acquired an “Ike” jacket like the one my father wore. I also acquired an Australian Royal Air Force version of the Ike jacket, which I wear at some shows. The jackets are great conversation pieces and I’ve had some people try to buy them off my back.
Some former soldiers send their old uniforms my way as well. In my office I keep a USAF fatigue coat that was a gift from my dear friend Dean Boyd. It keeps me warm when the heater doesn’t.
And why was I wearing a leather jacket in 70° weather in Florida, you may ask?
Because I was cold, silly.
Meg Godlewski is GAN’s staff reporter and a Master CFI.