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Helicopter Flight Training Sponsors

The Quest to Build a More Durable Flight Suit

Posted 4 years 257 days ago ago by Admin

Dr. Travis Bradberry, the award-winning coauthor of the #1 best selling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the cofounder of TalentSmart, a consultancy that serves more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies, once said, “Influential people are never satisfied with the status quo. They’re the ones who constantly ask, ‘What if?’ and ‘Why not?’ They’re not afraid to challenge conventional wisdom and they don’t disrupt things for the sake of being disruptive; they do it to make things better.”

Ron Abbott, owner of Evolution Helmets is definitely a disruptor in his business field; if you need evidence, look no further than his recent endeavor to enter another competitive space: aviation flight suits. Abbott, a U.S. military veteran, 22,000-hour helicopter pilot, and designer/manufacturer of the Evolution brand of flight helmets, has now developed a line of flight suits to complement the company’s helmet business. Evolution Flight Suits are made in the USA and is owned by Evolution Aviation Helmets, but associated with Sisley Clothing Australia and United Designs.

Why flight suits?

When asked why he ventured into flight suits, Abbott indicated that there were many good reasons to enter the market, but most notably it improves the competitiveness of the Evolution brand. “Many of the traditional helmet clients we’re doing business with, like air ambulance and law enforcement agencies  also have a need for flight suits,” said Abott. “So, why not leverage our years of expertise in personal protective equipment (PPE) to benefit our clients?”

Abbott went on to say, “Additionally, many of the ‘budget’ flight suits sold today are poorly built. Some of the common problems are that they tend to fade in a few months, or the striping starts falling off in a short period of time, so we decided to design and build a more durable flight suit.” Evolution made a decision to not compete with some of the budget flight suits on the market, but to consciously design a better flight suit that will cost $25 - $50 more, but will last many times longer. In fact, the Sisley-Evolution one- and two-piece flight suits come with a 2-year guarantee.

Reduce Fading and Improve Stitching

One of the major differences between the new line of Sisley-Evolution suits and the budget suits is how the product is dyed. According to Evolution, the flight suits that fade quickly, especially black and navy blue colored ones, are dyed after the Nomex material is manufactured. Typically Nomex comes from a manufacturer in a large roll of white material and is dyed later in the process. Evolution uses what’s called producer-dyed Nomex that is dyed at the thread level prior to being woven. This material costs more, but is much more resistant to fading.

The other area of construction that Abbott sought to address was to make the suit more durable by utilizing a triple-stitching process. Typical budget suits utilize double-stitching for the major seams, however in high-stress areas, the suits can prematurely begin to separate at the seams. Evolution, made a business decision in which it would use the triple-stitch for all high-stress areas, which is the majority of the flight suit.

Sisley Evolution Flight Suit Features:

• Custom pocket design and placement

• Triple-stitching in high-stress areas

• Producer-dyed Nomex to reduce fading

• Track belt waste adjustments

• Bar tacked zipper stops

• YKK zippers

• Fire-resistant & water repellent

Parallels and Challenges

Abbott indicates that there are some parallels in manufacturing his helmet line as compared to his new flight suit line. It’s all about having the proper people, equipment, and processes in place in order to efficiently build a high quality product. He says that it’s fairly easy to focus on what areas to target in order to build a better flight suit, items like fading and stitching. However, there are a few challenges to doing it right. First, there’s cost. The cost of entering the market is very high in the form of high-tech equipment, materials, and quality labor.

On the subject of skilled labor, Abbott says, “sewing is a skill and trade that has become a lost art in the United States, so finding skilled technicians is the single biggest challenge.” In the western hemisphere, sewing talent pools are traditionally located in Mexico and Central America, but Abbott was determined to build the Sisley Evolution line in the good ole’ USA. “We had to get creative in both our hiring and training in order to be able to meet demand for our flight suits, while at the same time maintaining quality.

According to Abbott, there is a price to pay for building a rugged, more durable flight suit in the U.S. — it’s more expensive. “We made a conscious decision to not chase the low-bid, budget flight suit work, but rather focus on working with customers willing to pay a little more for a higher quality product that will last longer, which in the end will save the client money,” said Abbott. Apparently, many of Evolution’s clients agree with that sentiment as the company is doing business with organizations like Maryland State Police, NYPD, Orange County Sheriff’s Office, and recently Aerial Machine and Tool became an Evolution distributor.

When it comes to helmet manufacturing, despite being a steeply competitive market, Evolution has seen success in carving it’s slice of market share by employing patience, being disruptive, and committing to serving the needs of pilots and crew members. The company is laying down big bets that this same formula will not only help them better serve their clients, but also grow their business for the long term.