Looking elegant but a bit bulky, Lieutenant Gilbert L. Meyers of the 35th Pursuit Squadron models his government issued flying ensemble: an A-8 oxygen mask, B-6 goggles, B-3 winter jacket, A-3 trousers, B-5 helmet, A-9 gloves, A-6 shoes, and S-1 harness. He’s standing next to the tail of a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk.
The photograph was taken by one of the great aviation photographers, Rudy Arnold (1902-1966). Arnold took up a specialty in aviation photography while working for the New York Graphic newspaper. In 1928, he began his own business, working out of New York City airports. Arnold’s photographs appeared in both aviation and in mass circulation magazines, and in the house publications of the major aircraft manufacturers; he also made movies for Universal and Paramount. Arnold captured an exciting period of aviation history in his pictures – but it wasn’t easy work, as he later explained:
“All through the early days of flying, I worked as an aerial news photographer, and today I’ve got the gray hair, scars, and shaky nerves to prove it…”
Allan Janus is a museum specialist in the Archives Division of the National Air and Space Museum.